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  • Nicole Soukup

THE LYRICAL ARTWORK OF JIM DENOMIE

“I have often thought of my sketches as lyrics to a song and

coloring and painting my sketches as putting those words to music.”

– Jim Denomie


The Delegation, 2008, by Jim Denomie. Oil on Canvas.

Gift of Bill and Krista Thorburn, 2017.94.5. On View in Gallery 301. Credit: Minneapolis Institute of Art.


Like a modern-day troubadour, Jim Denomie (Ojibwe, Lac Courte Oreilles Band, 1955-2022) drew upon lived experiences, pop culture, Ojibwa beliefs, and American history to paint monumental narratives that are uncompromisingly forthright. However, Denomie also created quieter works that grappled with notions of spirituality, memory, and place. The exhibition will survey his singular aesthetic, sources of inspiration, and creative production through 60 works he created over 15 years (2007-2022). In looking at Denomie’s voracious body of work, visitors will explore how Denomie’s work became as iconic as it was iconoclastic.


The Lyrical Work of Jim Denomie surveys the artist’s creative output through approximately 60 works, including paintings, sketchbooks, and drawings, organized thematically. In its totality, the exhibition explores how one artist used his imagination and inspiration to tell complex and multifaceted narratives using oil paints and canvas. A catalog and digital assets will accompany the exhibition.


Edward Curtis, Paparrazi – Skinny Dip, 2009 by Jim Denomie. Etching Gift of Steven Lang, 2014.32

Standing Rock 2016, 2018 by Jim Denomie. Etching. The Minnesota Artist Fund, The Michael Bennes Endowment for Art Acquisition, The Karl Thomas Opem Acuistion Fund, The Shared Fund and the Driscoll Art Accessions Endowment Fund. 2022.17 Credit: Minneapolis Institute of Art


“American culture often applauds those who speak truth to power, but we often forget the vulnerability and generosity of these acts,” said Nicole E. Soukup, assistant curator of contemporary art at Mia. “Not only was Jim an incredible artist, but his work holds space for complex, necessary conversations. His Anishinaabe and Minnesota roots add a special component to this exhibition for Mia. It will be a moment to celebrate and reflect upon the stories he left for all of us.”


Vatican Cafe, 2014, by Jim Denomie. Oil on canvas

Gift of Mary and Bob Meresky, 2021.115.3. Not on View. Credit: Minneapolis Institute of Art.


Honored with a multitude of grants and awards, Denomie received the McKnight Foundation’s Distinguished Artist Award (2019), a McKnight Artist Fellowship, and the Artist Initiative Grant through the Minnesota State Arts Board (2018), as well as a Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors Grant (2015). His work is in numerous collections, including the Philbrook Museum of Art, Denver Art Museum, and Walker Art Center. Born in Hayward, Wisconsin, Denomie lived in Minneapolis most of his life; however, he considered himself a global citizen, connecting with and supporting artists within and beyond the United States.


Highlighting Denomie’s singular vision and signature style over the second half of his career (2007–22), this exhibition is the first to bring together his iconic—and iconoclastic—paintings alongside lesser-known works. It will also include his unfinished series, They Sing Their Death Song (2020–22), and sculptures.


The exhibition opens on July 8, 2023 and continues through March 24, 2024.



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