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Following My Spirit Home

Following My Spirit Home

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A Collection of Painting and Stories

Author Sam Zimmerman / Zhaawanoogiizhik

Minnesota Historical Society Press (June 27, 2023)

A trip to Alaska and an epiphany at Mendenhall Glacier led artist Sam Zimmerman / Zhaawanoogiizhik to return home to family and his Ojibwe culture, a journey captured in paintings and stories.


When Sam Zimmerman decided to rededicate his energy and focus to painting in the late 2010s, he found himself drawn to the stories of his family and Ojibwe community. He wanted to capture these stories in images as well as words, and he began working with an Ojibwemowin language speaker to translate and preserve them in their native language as well. The paintings and stories he accumulated and developed between July 2019 and July 2020 are drawn from family lore and shared experiences centered in Ojibwe tradition and the natural beauty of northern Minnesota.

Zimmerman’s work explores his Ojibwe heritage by preserving oral histories handed down from elders while also reflecting the artist’s personal experiences and learnings in nature by incorporating the landscapes of Lake Superior’s North Shore, where he and generations of his ancestors have lived. His work features Northland creatures such as moose, loons, wolves, and fish as well as the night sky and native flora. Zimmerman preserves the Ojibwe storytelling tradition, reimagining the symbolism of the clan animals in natural North Shore landscapes. His work is infused with the color theories of the abstract and expressionism movements while also promoting environmental stewardship.

Following My Spirit Home features more than 80 vibrant and colorful images accompanied by stories, mostly based on tales Zimmerman’s grandfather told him or from his own experiences in nature along the north shore of Lake Superior. The stories are presented in both English and Ojibwemowin with the goal of advancing language revitalization.

Author Information

Artist and educator Sam Zimmerman / Zhaawanoogiizhik is a direct descendant of the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (Ojibwe). He began participating in juried and solo exhibitions immediately after receiving a bachelor of fine arts degree in studio art from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2000. At first, painting was a part-time activity while he worked as a special education and school and district administrator. When he returned home to Minnesota after almost two decades on the East Coast, he rededicated himself to painting with a ferocity that had been absent since his earlier studio days. Today Zimmerman's work is held in private collections in the United States and abroad. His studio projects and current creations can be seen on Instagram and Facebook at CraneSuperior. He lives in Duluth, Minnesota, and can be often found exploring the natural beauty of Minnesota's North Shore

  • Paperback
  • 168 pages
  • 9 in H | 10 in W
  • ISBN: 9781681342771

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