Musician and visual artist Buffy Sainte-Marie (b: 1941) has been appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada, the country’s highest recognition for Canadians who have helped shape society. Best known for her powerful music, she is also a respected digital artist.
Sainte-Marie, who is of Cree ancestry, is internationally recognized as an advocate for Indigenous and Aboriginal people worldwide. She is also a pioneering educator and a passionate social justice warrior. (Her gripping lyrics shaped my own understanding of the Indigenous world from my teens.)
She has been creating digital art works since 1984. Pushed to develop a virtual studio due to the constraints of her flat-out touring schedule, she began to experiment using a tiny 128K computer and the early graphic design program, MacPaint. Today, she is viewed as a pioneer of digital art-making.
Her multi-dimensional artistry puts her in the company of other Canadian music icons such as Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell (both also artists) and Neil Young. Over her long career, she has also steadily broken ground for other Indigenous performers. Listen to this Polaris Prize session with Tanya Tagaq, Inuk throat singer from Cambridge Bay (Iqaluktuuttiaq), Nunavut.
From her start in New York City’s Greenwich Village in the early 1960s, Sainte-Marie made a name for herself as a gifted songwriter, writing hits for Janis Joplin, Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond. Her most well–known song is the Academy Award-winning “Up Where We Belong” from the film An Officer And A Gentleman. But her most acclaimed song is “Universal Soldier,” one of the first anti–Viet Nam war anthems to inspire a generation of activists.
Buffy Sainte-Marie is a Polaris Prize winner, a multiple Juno Award winner and a Governor General’s Arts Award recipient. She has a songwriting Oscar, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA and a Gemini. Her artwork is in the permanent collections of the Institute of American Indian Arts Museum, First Nations University, and the Tucson Art Museum, and has been exhibited at the Glenbow Museum, MacKenzie Art Gallery, Isaacs Gallery, Walter Phillips Gallery, the Gallery for Contemporary and Indigenous Art (Tuscon), The Winnipeg Art Gallery and Gurevich Fine Art (Winnipeg), and elsewhere.
The art page on Buffy Sainte-Marie’s website, here.
Her biography page, here.
Her awards page, here.
A great CBC feature on Buffy Sainte-Marie, here.
The Canadian Encyclopedia, here.
This is #46 in the series 150 Artists.