Maynard Johnny Jr, Ravens Moon, 2005, acrylic on paper; Three Frogs, 2002, serigraph, ed. AP 8/15; Rise of the Guardian, 2014, acrylic on yellow cedar. Gift of the Salish Weave Collection of George and Christiane Smyth, 2021. Photo: Rachel Topham Photography.

Twenty-four works by Maynard Johnny Jr.

Maynard Johnny Jr. draws from traditional Coast Salish stories, but he also takes inspiration from his own family’s experiences and memories. Several of these family stories are in present in the works. Many of Johnny Jr.’s works are composed in an elongated horizontal format for which he is well known. Johnny Jr. maintains a strict colour palette of red, blue, blue-grey, green, brown, black, yellow, and white and in this group of works has only employed two or three colours at a time.

The moon is very significant for Coast Salish people and is featured in five of Johnny Jr’s works. The moon owns the night sky, lights it, indicates the season, and is the protector of the earth. When the image of the moon is paired with different animals, the story shifts. In Ravens Moon, the image is offered in different variations (print and painting), but the story remains the same: the Raven releases the sun and moon to the earth and the world. When a single animal is represented, the form is flattened and bifurcated, and when multiple animal are depicted, their bodies are entangled or rendered as mirrored forms. Frogs, like the work Three Frogs, represent communicators between the human and the spirit world and it is believed that they catch evil spirits with their tongues.

Rise of the Guardian, is rendered in acrylic on yellow cedar and is a fine example of Johnny Jr’s style in a larger format on a different support. It is executed in simple colours, red, white and black painted on sanded unfinished wood. The grain of the wood comes through the paint which give the image a rich and complex texture. The design is simplistic and uses the crescent, circle and trigon to create the images.

Maynard Johnny Jr. is a Kwakwaka'wakw / Coast Salish artist. His works across different media, including printmaking, wood carving of masks and panels, and designing and creating jewellery in silver and gold. Johnny Jr. has designed logos for many Indigenous organizations and has won a number of design awards. A large sculpture of a salmon he designed was donated to the World Trade Centre in New York to honour those lost in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Johnny Jr.’s work has been exhibited in numerous group and solo exhibitions in Victoria and Vancouver. He was featured in the Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation 2 exhibit at the Museum of Art and Design, (New York) in 2005, and 2009 his work adorned the cedar gift boxes that were given to special guests at the Canadian Juno Music Awards. His works can also be seen in film and television.