Mike MacDonald

Mike MacDonald (1941 - July 17, 2006).

Born in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Mike MacDonald was of Mi’kmaq ancestry. Mike drove across Canada every year working as a video installation artist and gardener in addition to pursuing photography and new media projects. Self-taught, he focused on the environment, incorporating plants and animals in his artworks. He found inspiration in both his aboriginal ancestry and Western sources, drawing from science as well as traditional medicine and ethnobotany.

His works have been featured in exhibitions worldwide, at such venues as the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Heard Museum (Phoenix, Arizona), and the Canadian Cultural Centre (Paris, France). In 1994, he was awarded the prestigious Jack and Doris Shadbolt Prize from the Vancouver Institute for Visual Arts, and in 2000 he received the first Aboriginal Achievement Award for New Media presented at the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival.

MacDonald’s most renowned projects include the butterfly gardens he planted across Canada beginning in the early 1990s. They are tactile living examples of his devotion to and admiration of the environment.Inspiration to create the gardens can be seen in his video installation works, most notably in
Touched by the Tears of a Butterfly (1994). This installation features silent videotape in a loop projected in front of a set of rocking chairs. The video follows the life of a butterfly, from its existence as a caterpillar until it bursts from its cocoon as a colorful winged insect.

MacDonald has also been recognized for presenting some of the most touching installations on Aboriginal heritage and community. For example,
Electronic Totem (1987) showcased a stack of five video monitors, one on top of the other, depicting the contemporary life of an Aboriginal community in British Columbia.

Mike's careful, positive storytelling, as well as his tender regard for nature and the quiet goings-on of the butterfly, built him a reputation as one of the more significant contemporary artists in Canada.

Artist Code: 028


Medicine Tent

1999, 59:30 minutes, colour, Silent

Touched By The Tears of a Butterfly

1995, 14:30 minutes, colour

Rat Art

1990, 10:00 minutes, colour, silent

Seven Sisters

1989, 55:00 minutes, English

Electronic Totem

1987, 20:00 minutes, Colour, English

What Price An Island?

1985, 28:00 minutes, colour, English

Nishga Survival

1981, 60:00 minutes, colour

Critical Writing

Of the Moment / In the Moment
by Lisa Myers. Toronto: V tape, 2014.
A Flutter of Images
by Sheila Farr. Seattle Times, Oct. 27, 2000.
Canadian artist captures the natural world on video
by Regina Hackett. Seattle Post Intelligencer, Oct. 20, 2000.
Buds unfold, flowers bloom and artists create at EAG
by Gilbert A. Bouchard. SEE Magazine, Apr. 15, 1999.
Video art moves with simplicity
by Regina Hackett. Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Oct. 28, 1994.
Pe'l A'tukwey: Let me...tell a story
by Robin Metcalfe. Arts Atlantic, Winter 1994, v. 12, no. iss. 48 no.4.
VIVA award will help Mike Macdonald's video work bloom
by Peter Wilson. Vancouver Sun, May 27, 1994.
Unendurable Boredom Not Part of This Show
by Robin Laurence. The Georgia Straight, May 14, 1993.
VIVA award winners' works provide a powerful display
by Ann Rosenberg. Vancouver Sun, May 1, 1993.
Man of Flowers: Video Artist Mike MacDonald's Newest Instillation,...
by Donald Goodes. Hour, Mar. 4, 1993, v. 1, no. 5.
Ecostructure, gender equality, subtly explored on video
by Ann Rosenberg. Vancouver Sun, May 1, 1993.
Whose Nation?
by Scott Watson. Canadian Art, Spring 1993, v. 10, no. 1.
Neo-Native Art: New Approaches to Traditional Thinking
by Rick Hill. Revisions, 1992. Banff: Paperworks Press, 1992.
Electronic totem pole airs Gitksan culture
by Adrian Chamberlain. Times-Colonist, Aug. 1, 1992.
Totem Pall
by Alison Boston. Monday Magazine, Aug. 13, 1992.
Earth Spirit cultures celebrate similar visions
by Christopher Hume. The Toronto Star, June 28, 1991.
Beyond History is disturbing and powerful show by Indian artists
by Regina Hackett. Seattle Post Intelligencer, May 31, 1989.
Show of Native Art Not Limited by Traditional Images
by Laura Busheikin. The Georgia Straight, June 16, 1989.
Indian art bares both meanings of spirit world: Beyond history...
by Elizabeth Godley. The Vancouver Sun, June 7, 1989.
Startling Images In Native Art Show
by David Lang. Times-Colonist, June 4, 1989.
Indians have culture, whites just get art
by Jon Whyte. Banff Crag & Canyon, Jan. 13, 1988.
Share the Blame:: I. "The Spirit Sings II. "Revisions"
by Marie Morgan and Peter Gzowksi. Vanguard, Apr 1988, v. 17, no. 2.
The art and life of a "Vidiot"
by Sys Richards. The Hazelton Sentinel, July 3, 1986, v. 1, no. 6.
Electronic Totem
by Julie Healey. Video Guide, Mar. 1984, v. 6, no. 2.