Born in Parry Sound, Georgian Bay, in April 1960, Philip Cote belongs to the Moose Deer Point First Nation. Through his ancestors, he is affiliated with the Shawnee, Lakota, Potawatomi, Ojibway, Algonquin and Mohawk nations. The renowned artist is also an educator, historian, cultural interpreter and a spiritual leader. Philip, being a seventh-generation descendant of Tecumseh (Ohio) is a Sundancer, Pipe Carrier and Sweat Ceremony leader. He belongs to the False Face society. A passionate creator and advocate of Indigenous history, cultures and identities, he has certainly drawn on the talents of his family lineage. His grandfather was a boat builder and later worked on the Mosquito aircraft during World War II. His father was a skilled furniture maker and his mother an artist and graduate of the Ontario College of Art. Having completed his primary and secondary education in Toronto, he grew up close to the Anishinaabe artist Norval Morrisseau with whom Maslak McCloud Gallery set up a two-person exhibition in New Mexico in 1994. Having obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Ontario College of Arts and Design in 1997, he completed a master's degree in the Interdisciplinary Art Media and Design program at the same institution in 2010. During the 1990s his interest lead to take up sculpting in soapstone while living on Six Nations where there were many soapstone carvers who influenced him. This inspired in him a desire to be a storyteller creating the visual mnemonic language in stone as his ancestors once did with pictographs, herein leaving a legacy across the land for future generations.
His research, fueled by a great curiosity and hard work, allowed him to translate aboriginal oral traditions and spiritual perspectives into works of sculpture and contemporary painting. Inspired by the Woodland style and the neoclassical painting approach, his large murals, some fifty of them, mark the urban spaces of the greater Toronto area and the Toronto District School Board. In fact, he has received several awards from the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas. His works impress with their size, the array of bright colors and contrasts and the stories told. In his pictorial semantics, the artist places nature and animal species at the center of a harmonious universe in the presence of an observant and peaceful human. You should see the recent work The Original Family created in 2018 - 120 feet wide and 37 feet high - at the corner of Jarvis and Dundas in Toronto. The muralist surprises any art lover with the ten murals that transform the pillars of the Old Mill subway station in Humber Park. These have become teaching tools for indigenous history illustrating the links between wildlife, the aquatic environment and the Anishinaabe people since deglaciation 13,500 years ago.
The artist who bears the Aboriginal name of Noodjmowin or healer takes the means to bring the Aboriginal and non-First Nation people closer together, helping them to appreciate the world we inhabit constructively. "My spiritual reflections have led me to a vision of a better world where we fight the two snakes, greed and power… a better world in which we think with the heart." He says he is very satisfied with the goals he achieves as an artist. “My art works are accessible to all citizens without restrictions. The feedbacks I get are very rewarding," he says. The man who masters the visual symbols of Aboriginal cultures professes his worldview through conferences, lectures and talks in universities, colleges, museums and institutions throughout Canada and the United States. Philip is a thinker, communicator, and philosopher. But he is primarily driven to break down misinformation and dismantling mythology in the foundation of this country’s colonial biased archives making a new history with an equal voice and narrative.
He would like to share his life acquired wisdom with all Canadians in search of openness and cultural experiences. "It is important to know yourself, to maintain a relationship with your ancestors and culture, and to open up to the cultures of the world. Those who live in Canada have the privilege of being free, either to be able to speak openly in public space as well as to explore the lands of our ancestors.” However, he expressed concern about the legacy we leave to the generations that follow us. The grandfather of young children questions the benevolence of our societies in the face of the environmental and cultural legacies that we offer.
Finally, Philip expresses his fascination with spiritual landscapes, special places of cultural richness and beauty marked by a harmonious relationship between the occupants of the land and nature. It's up to us to discover his favorites: The Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario’s boreal forest, the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site in the Alberta’s Rockies foothills, Greater Vancouver and locally Dreamers Rock in Manitoulin Island, Ontario.