Bob Boyer: His Life's Work
Robert James (“Bob”) Boyer is born on July 20 in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada to Leona and Robert James Boyer. The family also includes older sisters Sophie, Marie and Priscilla, and younger sister Gloria.
Boyer graduates from St. Mary’s High School in Prince Albert, where teacher Walter Hanishewski encouraged him to draw and showed him photographs of art and architecture. Following graduation, Boyer works for a year as a surveyor for Saskatchewan’s Department of Highways.
Boyer begins an undergraduate program in Fine Arts at the University of Saskatchewan, Regina Campus.
Boyer participates in a program called the New Community Club, operating out of Miller Comprehensive High School in Regina. Organized by two students at the University of Regina, the program offers day and evening sessions in dance, drama, music, writing, visual arts and filmmaking. In his sculpture class, Boyer outlines the history of sculpture and provides a background on different methods for students working in diverse media.
Boyer marries his high school sweetheart, Ann McGuinness, on February 14 (fig. 18). On June 16, the couple’s first son, Robert (Bobby Jr.), is born.
Boyer graduates from the University of Saskatchewan, Regina Campus, with a Bachelor of Education degree in Art Education. Also this year, he begins a position as an art and drama teacher at his alma mater, St. Mary’s High School, in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan — a post he holds until 1973.
A second son, Jonah, is born to Ann and Bob on April 18.
Boyer becomes a Community Programme Assistant — a post he holds until 1975 — at the Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery (now the MacKenzie Art Gallery) in Regina (figs. 19–20).
Boyer is a Program Supervisor with Northern Continuing Education, Buffalo Narrows, Saskatchewan — a post he holds until 1976.
Boyer becomes a Personnel Officer with the provincial Department of Northern Saskatchewan in La Ronge — a post he holds until 1978. During his time in La Ronge, he meets Mike Laliberte. Mike would later become his brother via a traditional adoption of the two men by First Nations Elders.
Boyer is hired as an Assistant Professor and Consultant in Indian Art by Ida Wasacase, Director of the newly-created Saskatchewan Indian Federated College (SIFC) (now First Nations University of Canada) at the University of Regina.
In June, Boyer travels to Scandinavia as a traditional dancer with the Saskatchewan Indian Dance Troupe to perform at the World Council of Indigenous Peoples Conference in Karesuando, Sweden and Kaaresuvanto, Finland. By this time, Boyer was a dancer who travelled widely and regularly throughout Canada and the United States to attend and compete at powwows.
Boyer is promoted to Department Head, Department of Indian Fine Arts — a post he holds until 1998 — and to Associate Professor of Indian Art and Art History at the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College in Regina.
In April, Boyer travels with Elder James Ryder to Phoenix, Arizona to tour and study at various museums and archaeological sites related to Southwest Indian art history. In August, Boyer travels to Custer Battlefield in Montana to study the history of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, and to the Crow Agency, also in Montana, where he participates in the largest annual Indian gathering (at that time there were 1,000 tipis).
In June, Boyer is a member of a six-person delegation from SIFC which travels to the People’s Republic of China as guests of the Chinese government. Boyer makes a presentation titled “Plains Indian Art and Culture” at the Central Institute of Minorities in Beijing (fig. 21).
Boyer’s first exhibition is held at the Assiniboia Gallery in Regina. He also becomes part of the Annual SIFC Powwow Committee in Regina, serving from 1984 to 2004. In February, he goes on a study tour of New York City museums and art galleries, and in July travels to South Dakota to visit the Arthur Amiotte Art Gallery in Rapid City and the Crazy Horse Memorial and Museum in Custer.
Boyer receives a commission from the Saskatchewan Government Heritage Collections, and creates a handpainted and hand-sewn quilt he calls The Batoche Centennial, now in the Saskatchewan Arts Board Permanent Collection. In July, he travels to Wyoming to study art and artifacts at the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody.
Boyer becomes a member of the Regina Arts Commission — a post he would hold until 1989. In February, he serves as the Eagle Staff Bearer for the Inaugural Grand Entry in official opening ceremonies for the new Poplar, Montana Powwow Arbour. His appearance is part of a half-hour Prairie Public Television program on the powwow in the United States. In March, he presents workshops in conjunction with the 1986 Arctic Games in Whitehorse, Yukon, along with Dempsey Bob of Prince Rupert, British Columbia. In May, he is Artist-in-Residence in the Saskatchewan Pavilion at Expo 86 in Vancouver, British Columbia. In June, he is Artist-in-Residence at the Native Business Summit in Toronto, Ontario. In August, he travels to the St. Boniface Museum in St. Boniface, Manitoba.
Boyer serves as a juror for the Canada Council (now Canada Council for the Arts) in Ottawa, Ontario, and becomes a Board member for Regina Youth Unlimited, serving in this capacity until 1989. In February, he is a Visiting Artist at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery in Thunder Bay, Ontario. In April, he travels to Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico to study the culture, art and artifacts of the region.
In the summer, he is awarded a Saskatchewan Arts Board “A” Grant. In July, he is a panelist at the Fourth National Native Artist’s Symposium, organized by SCANA in Lethbridge, Alberta. Throughout the summer and early fall, he travels through the Northern Plains of Canada and the United States to research oral traditions and histories regarding the powwow, Indian religion and traditional Indian art. In October, he is a Visiting Artist with the Department of Native Studies at the University of Brandon and the Brandon Allied Arts Centre in Brandon, Manitoba.
Boyer is commissioned by Garth Drabinsky, then-owner of the Toronto-based Cineplex Odeon Corporation, for two large-scale paintings for the Coronet Theatre in Regina: The Mountains, the Night and the 49 and Ten Minutes to Drum Roll Call. He becomes a “Second Circle” Board Member with the Association of Native American Artists in the United States (ATLATL). In January, he delivers a presentation in conjunction with the exhibition Bob Boyer: A Blanket Statement at the University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver, and has his first group exhibition at Galerie Dresdnere, Toronto. In May, he undertakes a tour of ancient archaeological sites in the southwestern United States, including Casa Grande, Montezuma Castle, Wupatki, Oak Creek Site, Walpi, Oraibi, and Polacca, Arizona. He also gives a presentation at an ATLATL Conference in Phoenix, Arizona.
Boyer is appointed Chairperson of the Regina Civic Art Collection Committee. In April, he is a Visiting Lecturer with the University of Ottawa Department of Visual Arts, and SAW Gallery in Ottawa, Ontario, and with Concordia University’s Faculty of Fine Arts in Montreal, Quebec. In May, he is a Visiting Artist and panelist in conjunction with the exhibition Beyond History at the Vancouver Art Gallery. In July, he travels to Alberta, British Columbia, Washington, Idaho and Wyoming to study museum collections of Indian art and to interview cultural leaders.
Boyer is commissioned to create the triptych Barricades and Bridges for the Regina Public Library Board in Regina. This year, he also becomes a member of the Mayor’s Task Force on the Arts in Regina, a member of the Regina Arts Commission Advisory Committee, and a member of the Task Force on Museums and First Peoples for the Canadian Museums Association and Assembly of First Nations in Ottawa, holding the latter position until 1992. In addition, he is a juror with the Canada Council in Ottawa, and serves as Co-Chairperson (with Alfred Young Man) of the Society of Canadian Artists of Native Ancestry (SCANA) from 1990 to 1992.
In March, he is part of the Lecture/Visiting Artists series with the Visual Arts Department at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. In April, he travels with Elders Ahab and Bette Spence to Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico to study Pueblo culture, and serves as a Visiting Artist and panelist in conjunction with the exhibition Seeing Red at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre in Kingston, Ontario. In June, he is a Visiting Artist and panelist in conjunction with the exhibition Contemporary Rituals at the White Water Gallery in North Bay, Ontario.
In September, he travels to Toronto with his mother and sister for the unveiling of twenty banners — unfortunately, no longer in existence — commissioned from him for the SkyDome Corporation (now the Rogers Centre) (fig. 7). This same month, he travels to the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody, Wyoming, to a pictograph site near Thermopolis, Wyoming, and to Custer Battlefield at Crow Agency, Montana to study the role of the Ghost Dance on nineteenth-century Indian painting and culture.
Boyer wins a competition to complete the mural Aurora Borealis for the new First Nations Hall at the Saskatchewan Museum of Natural History (now the Royal Saskatchewan Museum) in Regina (fig. 22). He also serves as a Board Member for Canadian Artists’ Representation/Le Front des artistes canadiens (CARFAC) from 1991 to 1992, and as a Member of the Visual Arts Advisory Committee for the Canada Council from 1991 to 1994.
In June, he travels to museums, galleries and archaeological sites throughout South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and New Mexico to study the art of various Indian cultures in these states, while on the way to the Museo de Arte Contemporßneo de Monterrey in Monterrey, Mexico for the opening of the exhibition Myth and Magic in America: The Eighties. This same month, he is also awarded a Saskatchewan Arts Board “A” Grant.
In September, he travels to South Dakota and Pipestone, Minnesota to research the ancient catlinite stone quarry where red pipestone is quarried for “peace pipes.” While there, he visits museums and Elders in the area to discuss the subject. Also in September, he presents the paper “The Persistence of Concept in Contemporary Indian Art” at the 8th Biennial Conference of the Native American Art Studies Association in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and in October takes part in the Visiting Artist Program at Boise State University in Boise, Idaho.
In July and August, he runs the Bob Boyer Children’s Collaborative Project, organized by SIFC Indian Fine Arts and the Dunlop Art Gallery in Regina. The four-week workshop was developed to encourage Native children to work in self-directed ways with the freedom to explore their cultural identities. Activities include beading, drawing, painting, photography and video production (fig. 23). In October he is a Visiting Artist at Keyano College in Fort McMurray, Alberta.
The Boyers move to a new home in Rouleau, Saskatchewan: the town’s original train station (fig. 24). In February, Boyer is a Visiting Artist in association with the exhibition Textiles, that is to say at the Textile Museum of Canada in Toronto. In July and August, he takes part in a dance tour of Russia, Finland, Sweden and Poland with the renowned Foxwood Powwow Dance Troupe. Performance highlights include: the Opening Ceremonies of the World Goodwill Games in St. Petersburg, Russia; a performance at the National Museum of Ethnology in Stockholm, Sweden; and a broadcast on National Polish Television in Warsaw, Poland. In December, a stained-glass window commissioned for the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Prince Albert is installed (fig. 27).
Boyer serves as a juror for the Canada Council in Ottawa, Ontario. In March, he gives a lecture at the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon in conjunction with the travelling exhibition Kiskayetum: Allen Sapp, a Retrospective, which he curated for the MacKenzie Art Gallery in 1994. In May, he serves as Artist-in-Residence with the Regina Multicultural Council, and in June as Artist-in-Residence with the Regina Public School Board.
In July, a banner commissioned by Ottawa’s National Capital Commission is installed in honour of Saskatchewan’s 90th Anniversary. Boyer’s banner, Transportation Opens Doors, was divided into blocks of colour reminiscent of the provincial flag (fig. 25). Unfortunately, the banner no longer exists.
Boyer serves as a Member of the Executive of the Canadian Conference of the Arts in Ottawa, and as a Member of the Advisory Board for the Boreal Forest Art Institute at Keyano College in Fort McMurray, Alberta, occupying the latter post from 1996 to 1999.
In April and May, he is Visiting Artist-in-Residence at the Boreal Forest Art Institute in Fort McMurray. Also in May, his mural The Carousel of Life, commissioned by the Cathedral Area Community Association, is unveiled on the west wall of the 13th Avenue Shopping Centre in Regina (fig. 26).
Throughout the year, he gives lectures in conjunction with the travelling exhibition, Kiskayetum: Allen Sapp, a Retrospective at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery in Thunder Bay, Ontario (March); Southern Alberta Art Gallery in Lethbridge (June); and the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec (October).
In February, he is a Visiting Artist with the Art History Department at the University of Toronto and York University, both in Toronto. Also this month, he serves as a resource person and presenter at the conference “Shaping the Future of Aboriginal Curatorial Practice,” given at the Canada Council for the Arts in Ottawa.
In October, he is Artist-in-Residence with the University of Regina Arts Education Department in Regina.
Boyer serves as a Member of the Exhibition Review Committee for the Rosemont Art Gallery in Regina from 1999 to 2002. He is Director of the Saskatchewan Housing Association for the Rouleau Seniors Centre in Rouleau from 1999 to 2003, and is a Member of the Acquisitions Committee for the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina, also from 1999 to 2003.
In April, he is a Visiting Artist and guest lecturer at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and in June he receives the Artistic Achievement Award at an Honouring Ceremony held in conjunction with the Regina Metis Women’s Association Recognition Awards Night in Regina. During the summer, he oversees the installation of four banners commissioned from him by the MusÚes royaux d’Art et d’Histoire (Royal Museums of Art and History) in Brussels, Belgium. Unfortunately, neither the banners nor an image of them have survived.
In the fall, he is Artist-in-Residence at the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina, Saskatchewan. In November, he leads a workshop on fresco painting at the Neil Balkwill Civic Arts Centre in Regina.
Boyer buys a house in Rouleau, Saskatchewan to use as a studio. This year, he also returns as Head of the Department of Indian Fine Arts at SIFC — a position he holds until 2004. In addition, he serves as a Board Member with the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina from 2000 to 2003, and as a Board Member of the Regina Plains Museum, also from 2000 to 2003. In May, he is Artist-in-Residence for the Kids in the City Programme at the Edmonton Art Gallery in Edmonton, Alberta.
Boyer is nominated with Lee-Ann Martin for an Award for Publishing by the Saskatchewan Book Awards for The Powwow: An Art History, a catalogue published in conjuction with the exhibition of the same title which Boyer and Martin co-curated for the MacKenzie Art Gallery in 2000 (fig. 28). In November, he serves as a juror for Arts Awards and Art Purchases for the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation in Toronto, Ontario.
In June, three of Boyer’s paintings — First Mesa, Second Mesa and Third Mesa — are selected for the Canadian Collection at the G8 Summit held at the Convention Centre in Kananaskis, Alberta. In July, he is inducted into the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (RCA).
Boyer is a juror for the Canada Council for the Arts in Ottawa, and is Co-Vice-President of the Board of the Regina Plains Museum. In March, he hosts and presents a talk entitled “Growing Up Traditionally Native in a City Landscape” as part of the SÔkŕwŕwak Artists’ Collective Annual Storytellers Festival in Regina.
From April 22 to May 30, he is Canadian Studies Fellow-in-Residence with the Institute of British and American Studies and the Caspar-David-Friedrich-Institute for Art at University of Greifswald in Germany. In the two-person exhibition intercontinental with Daniel Rode at eye-[kju:], project room for contextual contemporary art at the Caspar-David-Friedrich-Institute, Boyer exhibits three paintings made during his stay, while Rode presents three drawings and an installation. The two artists also create a collaborative painting combining two different ideas of artmaking, two perspectives and two cultural backgrounds for an intercultural, intercontinental dialogue (fig. 29).
In September, Boyer is a juror for the 5th Annual New Canadian Painting Competition, sponsored by the Royal Bank of Canada and Canadian Art in Winnipeg, Manitoba. In November, he gives a three-day workshop entitled “Aboriginal Art in Canada in the 20th Century: A New Look” at the Sami University College, University of Norway in Kautokeino, Norway.
In January, Boyer serves as Eagle Staff Bearer for the Grand Entry at the First Nations University of Canada (FNUC) in Saskatoon during a visit by the Governor General of Canada and a forum on Aboriginal Education. In April, Boyer is appointed a full professor of Indian Art and Art History at FNUC in Regina.
On August 30, Boyer collapses while dancing in a powwow at Macy, Nebraska, and dies in hospital at Sioux Falls, South Dakota.