Artist Profile: American Indian Review

Birth of a New Turtle

Birth of a New Turtle

The article, "Native American Renaissance Man", appeared in American Indian Review, No. 28, Spring, 2001. The painting Birth of a New Turtle graced the cover of this magazine issue.

Rabbett is an Anishinabe member of the Red Cliff Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa Indians of northern Wisconsin. Rabbett grew up in the San Francisco Bay area with art as his constant lifestyle. His mother, aunts, and uncles were all talented artists. They never considered art in a commercial context; rather they shared it with others as a source of healing. It would be many years before Rabbett would change this altruistic approach and seek to make a living from his art.

Rabbett realized he could draw at an early age and attempted his first oil painting at the age of fifteen. At the time college was not an option for him but he sought his inspiration from the great masters. He immersed himself in every book he could find on Botticelli, Rubens and Michelangelo among others of the great masters. Later impressionism and surrealism also fascinated him, but it was his love of the Renaissance Masters that helped him develop his talent. Although formal training was not his prerequisite, Rabbett’s talent grew by endless studying of the work of those painters that he so admired.

Rabbett’s paintings each have an individual story of Nanabozho that take the viewer to new and unexpected realms of personal relevance and universal meaningful content. “My dreams are filling in the gaps of the stories of Nanabozho. That’s why some people would call it “living mythology.”

Rabbett paints Anishinabe inspired allegories filled with complex energy beyond their substantial aesthetic and visual enticements. Underlying all the beautiful balance of forms, color relationships, and sheer virtuosity of technique, the intuitively perceptible power of the mythos, cultural history, legends and conceptual brilliance of an entire people asserts itself in the person and artistic genius of this extraordinary man. Rabbett both learns and teaches from his dreams. In transmuting them into living myths, he adds immeasurably to the cultural richness that the totality of the American experience encompasses. The intensities of beauty, purpose, meaning, and effect that characterize his heroic canvasses are the issue of an exceptionally active and intense mind and spirit. “I see the birth of my own creations.”

Rabbett is also a musician and mathematician, his goal is to become the first accomplished native mathematician known.
— from the article by Roz Dunford, "Native American Renaissance Man", American Indian Review