Norval Morriseau’s family speaks out about controversial Toronto artist

(Editors Note: APTN National News has decided not to use the real name of the artist because she has concerns over her safety.)

Willow Fiddler
APTN National News
The family of Norval Morriseau is speaking out about a planned exhibition of paintings by Amanda PL that bears a striking resemblance to the late artists work.

“We promised our father that we would try to carry on his legacy and if this thing opens up to, if non-natives start painting like my dad the meaning of his artwork is going to be lost,” said Eugene Morrisseau, one of Norval Morrisseau’s seven children.

Eugene Morrisseau is also an accomplished artist.


(Eugene Morrisseau is one of Norval’s seven children and is an accomplished painter in his own right. Photos Willow Fiddler/APTN)

He said the family doesn’t like her style of painting.

“Seeing this lady portray exactly like my dads artwork is almost like, I didn’t like it and as if shes copying,” he said.

Side by side images of Amanda PL’s work and that of Norval Morriseau’s made the rounds on social media prompting claims of plagiarism… and support.

Senator Murray Sinclair said Amanda PL’s work (signed Amanda PL) “clearly appreciates and is inspired by Norval Morrisseau and I for one applaud her for directing her talent that way.”

But Eugene Morriseau isn’t so sure Amanda PL knows the deeply spiritual teachings in his father’s work.

And this worries him

“Even ten years from now that her work is probably going to hang up somewhere and my dad’s artwork will be hanging right next it and people aren’t even going to know what it means,” said Eugene Morrisseau.

He said the teachings that Anishinabe artists depict are thousands of years old; passed along through generations.

“Oh they’re going to tell stories, Ahchoogahnoog eh, that’s where I used to go to listen to these stories through my grandparents,” he said. “Through the Elders, this is what this means when you pass on, put it on canvas this is how you tell the story.”

Morrisseau said you can’t just pick up what he knows from the internet or books.

Amanda PL told APTN in an email she was taught the untold history of Canada by an Anishinabe teacher during her studies in Thunder Bay.

“As an artist, I do have an ethical and social responsibility to respect, acknowledge, and adhere to laws, protocols, rights and freedoms of indigenous artists and communities,” she said.

But when asked about criticism, particularly by Morriseau’s children, that her work compromises Morriseau’s legacy Amanda PL said she doesn’t see it that way.

“I don’t engage with critics. critics work is to critique, artist work is to paint, write, compose, and share their creations,” she wrote. “Whether people or critics like it or not, it isn’t for me to decide.”

That’s not good enough for the family.

“We don’t want that door open and if she does, somebody else is going to do it then all stories and all the storytelling, they’re not going to be there no more, it’s going to be meaningless,” said Eugene Morrisseau.

An exhibit of Amanda PL’s Morrisseau-esque work at the Visions Gallery in Toronto was cancelled amid the bad publicity.

Senator Sinclair sad it’s the gallery owners who deserve criticism for throwing her under the bus.

Amanda PL said she won’t reconsider her style of art.


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54 thoughts on “Norval Morriseau’s family speaks out about controversial Toronto artist

  1. So if a white person makes a ribbon shirt and jingle dress to sell them is she plajerist or helping the people who want to have her work of art to be worn at powwows

  2. There seems to be an assumption that European values – discussion- ways of seeing art are the norm- by which all art is judged– perhaps indigenous people ‘s conception of art is very different– and there are terms such as copying and plaguerism that are norms—- what i am trying to say is- i hear two different languages here. I will defer to the indigenous because I have not studied their art from their point of view because I cannot have their point of view. There is an authenticity that I get from his art. That it came from beyond him through him. And I am talking about what i mean by style evolving as the story gets told.

  3. From a strictly Canadian artist business point of view native Art should be left to our indigenous brothers. Aside from the spiritual aspects when we open open this style to any artists it ruins the business for everybody. this happened with inuit art in the eighties and it took decades to recover. We should be proud of this art culture and promote it but we should not copy it.

  4. Dabbling in creative expression, whether James Joyce, Claude Monet, or Norval Morrisseau, expands perception and compassion. While I thoroughly understand cultural appropriation, let me turn this around: what exactly gives the family of NM the entitlement to dictate what someone else might paint, and how to measure Amanda PL’s “respect”. Rather than build bridges, the family seems to be acting like a 14th century guild, or a church afraid of teaching people how to read. It’s a lost opportunity. .

  5. This artist is painting in a style made famous by Norval Morriseau. There is no law preventing anyone from using a style developed or made famous by another artist. That is not what copyright is about. If this artist were literally copying a specific work by Morriseau, then copyright law would apply. But is that what she is doing?

    As long as it is clear that the work is her own, and she is not misrepresenting it as being someone else’s than there is nothing wrong here. It is legitimate to criticize her work as just copying, or derivative, but it is not illegal. Cultural appropriation is not illegal.

    Even if you wanted to make cultural appropiration illegal, who would decide what is cultural appropriation, where would you draw the line, how does that affect freedom of speech or expression?

    1. true, absolutely true. There are literally hundreds of artists working in the Woodlands style created by Norval Morrisseau. Some were taught by Norval in his “thunderbird school”, and some of his own students were not native.

  6. This example of cultural exploitation is shameful yet until we face the genocide that Canada is based upon we will just become angrier. We need to come to terms with the horror and violence of canadian cultural crimes. Her-story is here-to-stay.

  7. She should back off. Period.

    As a white woman who paints from her dreams, I am quite sensitive to issues of cultural appropriation. I have paintings that skirt on this edge – but they reference my own perspective and complex history. Wouldn’t it be great if Amanda PL could paint authentically from her own point of spirituality? You cannot “copy” someone’s relationship with spirit, which is what she seems to be doing. It is understandably offensive, and made worse by the reality (and her ignorance) of the lived experience of indigenous folks. Why doesn’t she paint about addiction? Abduction? Sex slavery? Her tone really smacks of insidious cultural imperialism.

  8. As a Mohawk artist I myself would not paint in the woodland style. It is out of respect that I would not do it. Not knowing the stories, teachings and ceremonies that has shaped this style of art would make it impossible for me to paint woodland style. I will admit that I can be influenced by other artists work as most artists are. I also feel strongly that every painting I do has a small piece of my spirit in it and that is what separates artists from copycats.

  9. Looking at this woman’s work she is CLEARLY using Morriseau as more then an inspiration. With her pieces placed beside Mr. Morriseau’s work you can clearly see she has out and out used his work and the fact she signs her name just like him is another telling detail. When told she could exhibit another style in the gallery she refused. This makes one believe she had no intention of doing anything but cashing in on the style. In truth the saying Bad press is better than no press at all may not be the case here.,, she has likely tanked whatever career she ever wished of having,

  10. I’m going to be the first to stand up for Amanda here as I feel we’re standing in judgement over something we know nothing about.

    As an artist that teaches people techniques on a regular basis that article stood out. It especially stood out because I personally have a deep seeded love for our Aboriginal community and the woodland style Indigenous artist form. I’ve personally been compelled to understand these techniques as I find they reflect a deep connection to the earth & strong values – which is a reflection of my heart. I don’t feel that by learning these techniques and their cultural meaning and applying them with my personal expression should ever compel any form of controversy. I think where people go wrong is by blatantly copying people’s works and taking credit and calling it their own.

    Original art has a deep meaning to people. Replications strip that meaning and most of the time is solely used for exploitative purposes. So the question really becomes…is this work a replication or is there a deeper connection? With the right respect, love and admiration for cultures I feel that we can cross cultural barriers with art and learn from each other along the way.

    I’m as white as they come. My family is certainly not aboriginal by any means….but I grew up where I spent most of my life on native land exploring the shores of lake superior. The islands surrounding me all held native names and stories. When I’d travel to these outreaches we’d always stop at the trading post where I’d admire, at a very young age all of the beautiful aboriginal art. My mother’s best friend was native and he connected me to his community. I’ve experienced their culture first hand. I’ve connected to aboriginal schools and have taught them art forms that I personally know. I’ve lived in the middle of the amazon rainforest with medicine men that take you deep inward to help you strip layers and see yourself and your connection to the earth. These echos prove to pass through each aboriginal community I’ve come across. In the end we tend to lose touch that we are all aboriginal, we are all white guys too…Why? because we’re all human. And the deep seed of who we are goes far beyond our skin color. We are born in places we’re never asked to be born in, into cultures we’re never asked to be born in. Yet for some reason we hold resentment against each other even though our neighbors have never directly held us down. We are human – we all come from the same spirit. If anyone knows this…it’s the aboriginal community. So….why are we bothering this woman? This is her path, maybe she’s a plagiarist (it’s possible…but I doubt it), or maybe she has a human story too. Maybe it’s worth asking what she means to convey through her art before we nail her to the cross.

    Art is expressive & has deep meaning on all levels. Let’s be kind – I don’t think this type of anger is warranted. I actually admire her courage in trying to cross these barriers.

  11. It’s exploitation period.Its another story of the christian values of dominance
    over land and people.Usage of christian doctrine to oppress people is disease that is western mindset.
    When I saw her work, it was more Calder like than Norval’s works.Go on a make a great American artist look inept.

  12. I am a white woman of Azorean heritage and an immigrant to Canada, and a visual artist. I am happy to hear all your comments and people standing up against cultural appropriation. This is something I learned was wrong later in life, and hope more people learn earlier than I. In solidarity.

  13. I might come across as an insensitive person, but I’m not. So, we can oversimplify the situation; you have an artist that originated a style, and you have another artist copying/ plagiarize/ taking inspiration from that, and all you have to say is “this other artist shouldn’t plagiarize/ copy/ inspire…etc from that because IS OF THE WRONG ETHNICITY…
    Should we stop black people from playing classical music?
    Should we stop white or Asians from playing jazz?
    Should we stop black people from using the saxophone, because is “appropriating the Belgian culture”?

    Also, there are tons of painters selling cheap copies of “Mona Lisa” next to the Louvre. Should we check their ethnicity too?

    1. You need to bone up on your history, this isn’t just about a less than talented person stealing/copying a great artist’s work, it’s also stealing our stories, our culture and pretending it’s theirs. Your right to say they’re (ripoffs of great works) ‘cheap copies’ b/c that is what this persons attempts are “CHEAP” !!

  14. I remember walking by a restaurant in the Toronto Beach a few months ago and seeing what must have been her artwork hanging on all of their walls. My husband and I scrutinized the paintings for quite some time through the window and we deduced that it was the work of a non-Indigenous person. We were going to go in to inquire about the artist, but decided to keep walking. Our discussion about the paintings continued as we walked as we were both highly concerned about the blatant plagiarized Morrisseau style that we both felt was poorly executed. The harm in this is that people looking at this art would automatically think this was the work of an Indigenous person and the sacred symbolism of Morrisseau and other woodland style Indigenous artists becomes nothing but a novelty…more trinkets for the walls with little care or regard of its original origins. As we as people have become nothing but novelties and souvenirs of Canada, so has our expression, rituals, symbols, teachings, beliefs, styles and customs. This is the danger of appropriation by so called artists like this woman who clearly doesn’t have a original bone in her body or regard for our teachings and sacred symbolism and beliefs.

  15. I will probably be the lonely dissenter here, but please understand I am not defending Amanda PL’s work. While all this controversy is bubbling away, I am thinking that thousands of people have copied the Great Masters, trying to emulate the techniques of those artists they admire and are inspired by. So why is it not the same for Amanda? Copies are just that, copies. Unless she changes her style enough that her work shows a major gap between Morriseau’s and her own, she will always be known as a copier, just like the people who copy the Great Masters. She signs her work very prominently, and it by no means carries the spirituality of Morriseau’s work. Therefore, she is “cooking her own goose” as some would say. Don’t underestimate fine art collectors. They are smart enough to realize the Morriseau’s original work is far and away more valuable than an immature copier who doesn’t understand where her critics are coming from.

    1. This is concern surrounding the historical power imbalance and marginalization of indigenous culture, and the appropriation of cultural content through art. Cultural context and symbolic imagery is very important, many other artists know this, and admire this imagery from a distance and through respect. I fear this artist does not comprehend the cultural implications of this appropriation, nor does she extend the level of respect necessary. The adage “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, is a caveat being thrown out there in response, but the historical cultural relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous (particularly power) people must be considered.

      1. Based on my assessment of the images there appears to be no new material only replication. Disclaimer – I am new into the art field. “Copying” to learn is one thing and it where I am stuck myself right now. But – that is about technique and trying and failing and learning; every step a lesson: how to handle your tools, how to start, when to stop. BUT I would never sell my practice works (aka copies) They are practice – like a singer doing scales. You wouldn’t play a concert ticket price to hear a singer rehearse scales. In fact to sell your copies is a step over the line from respect and admiration into theft. If this artist had regard for Indigenous people, if she had been taught, as she claims, by Ashninabe Elders she would know the treacherous waters she was wading into as a non indigenous person. She could have so easily grown her talent and honoured her teachers and Norval and developed her own eye and style. She could have been a model of how non indigenous people can be better than their colonial ancestors and NOT steal. She could ha ve apologized and said “I am sorry” and “I will do better” but she didn’t at ever step she has shown the same self centred selfishness. In short she was gifted stories not a career but she wants to make a living from them. Dishonour.

    2. People who copy the old masters do this to learn from them while becoming an artist. They don’t have a show of fake Leonardo’s or they too would be critiqued.

      Under copyright law in Canada an artwork cannot be copied until 75 years after the death of an artist. She is violating the law.

      And she is appropriating culturally specific symbolic language from a culture that is not only not her own, but she clearly does not respect.
      I find her work highly offensive as it demeans the very special contribution Morrisseau had with the spirit world and his contribution as a seminal Indigenous artist.

      That she dismisses criticism clearly shows she is not open to learning for her unwise choice to make aesthetically substandard copies of artwork under copyright protection and from a culture not her own.

  16. While reading this article, I kept thinking about a quote from Picasso, something like “Good artists copy, Great artists steal”. The way I have always interpreted this quote is that a great artist steals other’s techniques and make them their own. She doesn’t do this. This is just copy and therefore lacks imagination and innovation, so while she is good at what she does, this will never make her a great artist.

    Then to add insult to injury by appropriating the legacy of a people, well that makes her not an artist, but a thief! I feel sad for her that she thinks what she is doing is art. I also feel sad for Norval Morriseau’s family that they have to defend their stories and art and be dismissed as “critics”

  17. Flattery will get you no where. She needs to develop her own style just like any true artist. I wouldn’t want to be known as the one who copies others. Remember Margaret Mead’s story, Big Eyes

  18. Needs a discussion about collective and /or Collected heritage/art.. this discussion needs Jesse Wente input

  19. Eugene I agree with you! Your fathers heritage, your heritage as depicted through your art needs to be protected! Thank you for continuing your tradition. I’m sorry this young artist is blind to what she is doing.

    1. what a load of b******t I knew Norval for years and he would have said one thing to any artist”keep painting” he wouldn’t care if he was being emulated he would have been proud get a grip you greedy people who only come around once he has passed and stfu

  20. Woodland art is not Norval Morrisseau by default. However the resemblance to a Morrisseau is uncanny. I just want to point out that Morrisseau is using a well establish cultural style that does not belong to Morrisseau. I would like to point this out, as some of you seem oblivious to this style and how it originated

    1. This is a highly racialized discussion, and as such perhaps you could do us the decency of identifying who you are? What is your ethno-racial ancestry, and what is your expertise in this form of art? Until Morrisseau, there was nothing like his style. As a white male who teaches a number of courses in Indigenous/First Nations studies, it is incumbent on us to identify who we are, as that as a decided effect on our positionally. We expect a reply.

    2. And you seem to be equally oblivious to the fact that artists earn the right to emulate this style through direct sacred teachings, not by repetitively making ugly copies and putting it out there for mass consumption. It’s plagiarized greed. It needs to be stopped. It devalues the art form and takes up space and revenue that rightfully belongs to indigenous artists and the Ojibway people. The days of helping yourselves are done. Get over it.

      1. Dear Ms. Siccama, with all due respect, if Morrisseau’s art is sacred, why does the family not object to it being sold for $ 25K and up a piece and being hanged in the living room of white people ignorant of the teachings behind it? By using mainstream artist materials and selling in mainstream galleries Morrisseau implicitly agreed to be a mainstream artist. One cannot have it both ways. By the same token, imagine if Native communities would sell the sacred Native knowledge in workshops to the public for money…it would cease to be sacred and that is why they don’t do it. Plagiarism is defined as ‘the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own’. This woman clearly identifies Morrisseau as her inspiration, she is not copying his work without adding her own two-cents and she is not signing the paintings as ‘Copper Thunderbird’. Her paintings are also not sold anywhere near to the price of Morrisseau’s, maybe she breaks even for the material and the time…I am not defending her as a person as I don’t know her, and I agree that real forgery should be punished. But I think that this kind of accusation makes more harm than does any good to the relationship of the various cultures. Nobody owns a style.

    3. It’s true that woodland art is not automatically painted by Morrisseau, but he originated the style. Any others working in that style came later.

    4. From everything I’ve read, he did start this style. Can you name the other artists?

    5. Slyvia, Norval originated the “Eastern Woodland” style along with his personal touch, or style, if you like. Accordingly, the 500 or more Native Artists following him each developed their own personal touch or style.
      This “artist” Amanda has put nothing of her own style in her “Art”. Also signing her name to simulate Cree syllabics is simple attempted FORGERY!

  21. This Amanda PL is definately stealing OUTRIGHT STEALING and if she was going to respect then she should be finding her own STYLE !!

  22. She’ll reconsider appropriating our cultural art, when she doesn’t sell any art in any galleries for a while. Clearly money is the only language she speaks, not honour or respect.

  23. It’s plagiarism pure and simple
    Family should sue
    His work should be copyrighted protected

    1. Actually it’s not pure and simple, because she didn’t forge his signature.
      When you purchase the work, you know it’s not a Morriseau. Any art perceived to be “in the style of” would be considered plagerism. That’s ridiculous.

  24. Is the artist who is trying to mimic Norval Morriseau’s art making money from her exhibit in any way? or trying to sell the art to make money in any way? and using the signature of Norval with additional characters – this is not right – not criticizing her ability to paint however it is not for her to publicly mimic someone else’s artwork – it is unethical particularly an insult – we can appreciate the work of an artist however when you mimic and gain something from it – there is a line – to understand these particular paintings you must understand spirituality for if you don’t then you will distort an image which is not intended to be distorted for some sort of gain – the art came into a reality – a specific form to introduce to the world – a gift to the world – spiritual art – it is similar to defacing any other image or images given to the different nations of the world as a sign of the spiritual essence of something much larger than ourselves – sounds like she does not get it – its like taking a Buddha and changing it around and gaining something from it or a statue of our Holy Mother and putting maybe a mini skirt on her – the same ridiculous disrespectful ignorance.

    1. We purchased ‘Copper Thunderbird’ Morrisseau’s book around 1981 as well as other inspirational literature and we submerged ourselves in its context. We took over 20 years to unravel through exten=sive travelling around Ojibwe Country just to hear some of the surface material the scrolls speak about. Many of the teachings are spread out and shared to the men and women who are appointed or born into it. Medwein practices are thought to be dead or a dying practice by some of our own people who were brainwashed and wiped of their hearts and malnourished by the slave grinders in the churches at the turn of the century… (By which they deny..fearful of retribution…they build fences doors and laws to protect themselves) We were suposed to forget it all and this woman is most likely a social experiment to see what will happen if she does what she is doing. Maybe, she herself, is a just a 3rd wave of miscommunication onto the tribe. Science or more ridicule!

    2. I guess all of us who portray Van Gogh or Monet or any of those other impressionistic we are also guilty of plagiarism I understand your Traditions behind this and she needs to tell the stories that are going with this but anybody doing any style of painting based on somebody else’s style of painting would be guilty of plagiarism then

      1. Those who use those artist style are never given any gallery space. No one takes them seriously.

      2. If you ‘copy’ Van Gogh, Monet, Group of Seven etc so closely that they are almost indistinguishable, you’re a forger, if you write stories that are near identical, you’re a plagiarist.. pure and simple. Notwithstanding the spiritual and medicine elements within Norval’s work. People who don;’t understand this, need to read a book, get educated and stop being so damn ignorant!!

        1. There are other issues at stake — and more important ones — but plagiarism involves not acknowledging one’s source. I believe that this artist openly cites the influence of Morrissey, which suggests that while it may be unoriginal, it is not plagiarized.

    3. Yes, Amanda Lagrotta, plagiarist, has sold her work and has made money on it. I have seen her work posted on a site called, a site for showcasing and driving your work. She might have deleted it for the time being but as she said in the article she “wont reconsider her style of art”. Meaning she will continue to plagiarize. Deplorable. As a person making their way through post secondary education, knowing how much they stress that you need to cite your sources or get penalized for plagiarism, it just makes me angry no one in the media is calling it what is. Plagiarism. Plagiarism. Plagiarism. Amanda Lagrotta plagiarised.

      1. Two words to say , Copy cat! Why is it she can go and copy someone else’s work. She doesn’t even know the stories behind the pictures. Shame on her and the family are not critics, it was their Fathers work.

    1. the style will always be Norvel’s just as the style of Eddy Cobiness who Ray Baptiste mimics

    2. This article doesn’t mention that Christian Morrisseau is friends on FB with Amanda. Have to wonder what that relationship is like. How far are people willing to go with this??

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