Posts Tagged “Ken McNeil”

Tom Daniels and Roy Henry Vickers

Tom Daniels and Roy Henry Vickers

Harold started the day off by concluding the presentation on NW coast artists.  Again, it was a good presentation, with a bit of a surrealistic quality due perhaps to the fact that one half of the presentation was on Dempsey Bob, who was sitting at the side, observing the whole presentation.

Harold started the day where he finished off yesterday, talking about the Gitksan artists, covering Ken Mowatt, Robert Jackson Jr, Glen Wood, Phil Janze and Earl Muldon–aka Earl Muldoe.  Ken Mowatt, born Sept 2, 1944, taught at the Kitanmaax (K’san) school in Hazelton during the 70’s.  Ken has been a carver for over 40 years and is known for many works around Hazelton, including many of the poles at K’san.  Robert Jackson Jr was born in 1948 in Port Edward, and grew up with Dempsey Bob.  Robert’s story was one of “greatness, loss and recovery.”

Harold highlighted Glen Wood, who worked with Dempsey on the eagle pole next to the courthouse in Rupert.

Eagle Pole. carvers: Dempsey Bob and Glen Wood

Eagle Pole. carvers: Dempsey Bob and Glen Wood

Harold went on to talk about Phil Janze.  Phil was a teacher at K’san and is a noted jeweler and carver.  Harold discussed Earl Muldon, aka Muldoe, who was one of the most notable pole carvers from K’san.  Earl has a long legacy of teaching and excellence.  Earl was named an officer of the Order of Canada on June 30, 2010.

The Tahltan Wolves: Dempsey Bob, Ken McNeil and Stan Bevan

This was a particularly special part of the presentation, considering that two of the above persons were at the presentation while Harold was talking about them.  Dempsey’s legacy was that of an innovator and a teacher.  Dempsey learned much of what he knew from Freda Diesing and passed along much of what he knows to Ken and Stan, his nephews.  Dempsey, Stan and Ken are all part of the wolf clan, and are all Tahltan.

On an interesting note, Roy Henry Vickers was there listening to much of the presentation.  Roy is most definitely a key part of NW coast art history.  Roy, a Tsimshian, Haida, Helstiuk, Scot by birth, went to K’san with Dempsey in the 70’s.  Although, anything that I may know about Roy is probably already on Wikipedia, I will say that he is well known for his silk screen prints, literature and great public speaking skills.  Roy will be coming to do a talk to the class early next month.  The preliminary dates are the 10th and 11th of March.

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Harold Demetzer

Harold Demetzer

I managed to get Harold’s permission to post his photo onto my blog, today.  Originally, Harold didn’t want “anything done” with the photos we took of him, I managed to convince him to let me show this as he pulled out the camera to take photos of us this afternoon, though.  He tells me that this will be one of two photos of him on the internet.

Harold spoke of west coast artists today and the connections between the artists.  Harold went highlighted a list of seventeen artists from the Haida, Nisga’a and Gitksan nations today.  Although it was clear that more artists were on the list that we didn’t manage to cover today, what we did cover was quite informative and even a bit inspirational.  Starting with a tree graph of the connections between the various artists, Harold highlighted who taught whom.  For example, Bill Reid taught Robert Davidson, Don Yeomans and Jim Hart; Robert Davidson taught Reg Davidson, Freda Diesing and Chuck Heit; Freda Diesing taught Dempsey Bob and Glen Wood; Dempsey Bob taught Stan Bevan and Ken McNeil.  Harold pointed out that all great north west coast artists taught.

Harold then went through a list of these artists one by one, starting with Bill Reid.  Bill was an artist who stood out, as Harold described it, because of marketing and talent.  Bill’s career as an artist spanned many decades and in the later years, he had many artists working under him.  One of Bill’s most famous works is on the Canadian $20 bill, “Black Canoe”.  When the 3 meter high bronze sculpture was made and installed, Bill specifically stated “Do not prevent people from touching it.”  The patina has since naturally worn off in spots on the bronze sculpture located at YVR.  Bill died in 1998 of parkinson’s disease.

Next Harold went on to speak of Haida artist Don Yeomans.  One of the most interesting thing about Don was his tendency to mix art and subject matter not typically north west coast with the north west coast style.  Ken McNeil reminisced that the first time that he met Don, Don was wearing a elephant frontlet headpiece.  A frontlet is part of the head dress of a simoyget, or chief, and typically has a motif of either a human or figure from nature found in the west coast.  Elephants are not found on the west coast.

Harold went on to tell us about Haida artist Robert Davidson.  Harold said that the first time that he and Robert met was very similar to the last time that they met.  In between these times, Robert was an amazing example of a northwest coast artist.  Robert started his career raising a pole that was the first pole in 90 years in all of Canada, since the potlatch law of 1884.  Incidentally, before the pole was made, Robert was talking with his grandma, Florence Davidson, daughter of Charles Edenshaw, about the need for a pole and how he said that he should raise one; Florence quite seriously agreed that he should.  And so in 1969, the pole was raised.  Robert went on to be an instructor at Ksan, and even taught Freda Diesing, herself.

Harold went on to describe artists of Nisga’a lineage.  Including the Tait brothers: Norman, Alver and Josiah.  I know that Josiah worked on a few major installations in Prince Rupert, with Freda Diesing.

Students from Freda Diesing School stand in front of a large plaque at the Prince Rupert Hospital. The plaque was designed by Freda Diesing and carved by Josiah Tait.

Students from Freda Diesing School stand in front of a large plaque at the Prince Rupert Hospital. The plaque was designed by Freda Diesing and carved by Josiah Tait.

Harold then went on to describe some Gitksan artists, such as K’san co-founder Walter Harris and controversial artist Ya’Ya (Chuck Heit).

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Gary Wyatt, a director from Spirit Wrestler Gallery in Vancouver, is scheduled to come up next week. In keeping with Bill McLennan’s presentation, yet to my knowledge not collaborated, Gary will be talking about traditional and contemporary artwork. In addition to this, Gary will be speaking about where he sees the market going: traditional or contemporary. Perhaps these presentations are not as unconnected as I think, because they are part of the art history lesson for this year.

Spirit Wrestler is one of the biggest first nations art galleries in Vancouver, displaying works from artists such as Dempsey Bob, Robert Davidson, Stan Bevan and Ken McNeil. In addition to aboriginal artists on this continent, Spirit Wrestler also exhibits works from Maori artists.

Below is one of my newest works. It is an alder spoon that I am finishing right now before I paint it. I like alder because it is such a beautiful material, it is easy to work with and it doesn’t give off overbearing odors or unbearable dust.

Alder spoon

My Alder Spoon

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Bill McLennan talking with Stan Bevan and Chaz Mack

Bill McLennan talking with Barry Sampere, Stan Bevan, Chaz Mack and Ken McNeil

Bill McLennan is an author, project manager and curator for the UBC Museum of Anthropology. He gave a talk today for the students at Freda Diesing School for his exhibit on Charles and Isabella Edenshaw. It was quite informative. Bill displayed photos of bracelets, spoons, weavings and mats by Charles and Isabella, indicating methods that he has developed to verify the authenticity of Edenshaw’s works. Though I won’t go into detail on this, but it was quite interesting.

Bill McLennan

Bill also knows quite a great deal on traditional paints and pigments. He answered my questions on the use and substance of yellow, white and blue pigments in traditional work. Much of what Bill spoke of was not in his book: The Transforming Image. Bill described many of the traditional pigments and binders used. Bill told us that blue earth, used for blue paint, was worth about $20 for a thumbnail in the early 1900’s; that’s about $500 if you consider an inflation rate of 3% a year. It was expensive stuff and usually only used by simoghets–chiefs.

A list of other pigments that were not commonly used were clam shells for white, mercuric oxide for yellow and cinnebar for red. Perhaps this is a good thing, as the last two are considered to be accelerators for parkinson’s disease and a number of other neural disorders.

Bill describes in his book the method that he developed for recovering images from patina covered artifacts: infrared film. Bill mentioned that mineral based pigments tended to show up on IR film much more clear than “trade pigments” from China and Europe. Mineral based pigments, if you’re careful, seem to be better paints than many of the modern paints used. This was also clear from observing the old poles at Gitanyow, where some blue-green and white paint was still on some of the poles.

Dean Heron and a student Getting Ready for the TAG exhibit

Dean Heron and a student getting ready for the TAG exhibit

Also, I am preparing for a group exhibit at the Terrace Art Gallery next month.  The opening is on Friday at 7pm at the Terrace Art Gallery.  This will be a good show.  I have seen some of the work already and it has surpassed my expectations.

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