Christopher “Day One” Carlson paints a portrait of Chief Bobtail during the Indigenous Peoples Day celebration recently. Carlson is known for his modern take on First Nations artworks. The Maskwacis artist now lives in Calgary and works full time on his art. Photo by Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye

Artist from Maskwacis blends modern art with First Nations culture

Blending modern art and hip-hop culture with Indigenous culture is Christopher Day One Carlson

An artist has taken his First Nations culture and found a way to blend it with modern street art.

Christopher “Day One” Carlson was at the National Indigenous Peoples Day in Ponoka recently, showcasing his work along with the dancers and singers.

Originally from Maskwacis, Carlson now lives in Calgary painting his unique pieces full time.

“I paint in a style that I call neo-traditional,” said Day One. “I take Aboriginal art and I put a modern spin on it.”

The closest style he can think of is that his work blends street art and Indigenous art. Day One has been able to make his passion full time work.

His painting with non-aboriginal people has become quite popular but Day One says he has received mixed feelings from First Nations folks. Some of that has to do with one side worrying that Day One’s work is too modern and that it misses out on traditional messages.

“Some people really like what I’m doing and some people are more traditional,” said Day One, adding that there are some who worry about how he portrays historical figures such as Lakota leader Sitting Bull.

So, what is his motivation?

“Being a native artist, I’m pigeon-holed. There’s a lot that’s expected of me and it’s predetermined what I’m going to paint and what I’m going to release,” said Day One. “I like to be different.”

He’s friends with many local Indigenous artists and it’s their work that motivates him to use a different style of painting.

One of the more memorable pieces he has done was an Idle No More painting of a lady from Halifax, N.S. carrying a feather aloft in front of a riot squad. “That was a pivotal painting for me.”

After it was released, the painting was displayed at McGill University and published in a few magazines. It created more movement for Day One and more people booking him for work.

There is another reason why he blends street art with traditional art; that is to reach a younger audience, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. “It gets the kids to look into stuff.”

When they see a painting of Sitting Bull with that modern twist, Day One says those younger kids start to look into who the Lakota chief was. “It’s working, he concluded.

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