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Allen Sapp

Lifetime (1999)

Allen Sapp says he simply painted. Most others would disagree. His work, now famous across the country and worldwide, is considered among the Aboriginal world’s best. “His paintings are marked by a very personal kind of realism that is the result of his total involvement with everything he paints,” an art expert once wrote. “The people, the landscape, the animals. They catch a mood, a feeling. The vibrant aliveness of winter, the subtle undertones of an autumn landscape, the sad calm of a Native figure – these are the meanings of his paintings.” A Saskatchewan Cree from the Red Pheasant First Nation, Dr. Sapp was born just as the Great Depression dawned in 1929. He turned to painting early in life. “I just painted,” he says. “I was sitting by myself, in Onion Lake, and I would get lonesome and I would draw some pictures. I did much schooling, but mostly I’d draw pictures. The teachers liked my pictures.” And so would thousands in the years ahead, right through to the present day. In his 20s, Dr. Sapp sold some of his work to North Battleford’s Dr. Allan Gonor marking the beginning of Dr. Sapp’s commercial success. In 1989 the Allen Sapp Gallery Gonor Collection opened in North Battleford in his honour. He received the Order of Canada and has been the subject of television documentaries and profiles by countless journalists. Along the way, Dr. Sapp has consistently spoken to youth, warning them of the dangers of drug and alcohol use. And, he’s been a champion of the Native Heritage Foundation. Allen Sapp was the Lifetime Achievement recipient of the 1999 National Aboriginal Achievement Awards.