Born in Temagami, Ontario, Benjamin Chee Chee largely taught himself to draw and paint. His father died when he was two months old and he lost track of his mother. One reason behind his drive for success as a painter was his ambition to be reunited with her.
He was a prominent member of the second generation of Woodland Indian painters, a native art movement that began in the early nineteen-sixties and has since become one of the important art schools in Canada.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, he painted in a style influenced by modern abstraction. While most of the young Woodland Indian artists were content to follow the style of the movement’s founder, Norval Morrisseau, in depicting myths and legends by direct and “primitive” narrative means, Chee Chee pursued a more economical graphic style, a reduction of line and image more in keeping with the mainstream of international modern art.
Aside from the earlier introduction of the Woodland Aboriginal art style of Norval Morrisseau and Daphne Odjig in the 1960s, one of the most dramatic turn of events has to be sudden emergence of Benjamin Chee Chee in the mid-1970s that ended with his tragic death in 1977. Because of the short span his iconic art form was created, there are a very limited number of his originals. Very few have appeared on the resale market in recent years. When one does, it is a noteworthy event. Chee Chee’s minimal linear style had a profound impact on such artists as Hugh MacKenzie, Clemence Wescoupe, Isaac Bignell and Sweetpea.
At the age of thirty-two and at the height of a new-found success as an artist and printmaker.