Posts Tagged “mask”

My favorite English teacher in college always said “write about the things that you know.”  I believe that artists should also work from what they know; and not just writers.  It follows that creative people should reflect upon their lives, what they know and the people they have met along the way.

The tough part about creating from what you know is that the cuts that make the most impression are usually the deepest.  Reflecting upon past memories is a lot like touching a carving or sculpture with your hands.  You can feel every cut, every contour, every nook and all the “scars”.  The deepest cuts make the most impression.

A carving can’t feel back, and so too reflection can be a very one-sided thing and quite unhealthy if you’re not careful.  I learned this lesson with much pain and difficulty.  It was another lesson learned in college.  It was about a girl.  And like feeling a carving, any feelings were not mutual.  It’s painfully funny how something can, for all intents and purposes, look alive and yet have no life.  What I thought was attraction, turned out to only be attention-seeking.  I fell for the wooden doll that never came to life–that could never love me back.  I was in love with the likeness of someone and not the person.

I fell for Pinocchio’s sister.

Skip ahead a few years, after much wandering in confusion, God sent a messenger who breathed life into me.  And though I was very attracted to her, she had something that I needed so much more desperately, the Holy Spirit.

She gave all the credit for the success in her life to Jesus.  The dark reflections in my soul (aka shadows) shuddered and even scrambled to explain it away; the light was rejuvinated!!!  The cut was made!

I remember the day when we sat in her Uncle’s car, watching the distant killer whales blow pillars of mist into the golden remnants of evening light that made haloes around her most beautiful eyes and face.    She told me that I have the Holy Spirit in me.

Like the air that the killer whales need to breathe, she breathed life into me.

I will carry what I saw on those shores for the rest of my life.  I would thank her, but she would just give the credit to Jesus anyways, and so I thank God!

Now, you might be thinking that we were destined for love and great things.  And we were…but not together.  I was in love with what shone through her.  I was in love with Jesus.

We tried to “make” it work over the years, but the relationship was built on sand before it was ever built on stone.  Hearts were wounded, tears shed, paths carved seperately.

I wish to this day that I could say that I am sorry for how things worked out, but that’s probably just me over-reflecting.  After all, things haven’t been all that bad.  She’s now happy working as a pediatric nurse at BC Children’s hospital and I’m happily married as an artist.

And now, like most of my stories, I leave you with a paragraph pertaining to a perpetual platitude applied to personal perceptions.  Good art is like a reflection of who we are.  Great art is a reflection of who God is.  It’s healthy to reflect upon who people are, but it’s healthier still to reflect upon who God is.

Or, as the very centre of the Bible states:

  “Far better to take refuge in God
than trust in people;
Far better to take refuge in God
than trust in celebrities.”

 Psalm 118:8-9
The Message

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Well, it’s back to normal, back from school and back to the grind. I have been looking at materials local to Topley that I may use for carving. One of the woods that I have checked out is aspen wood. It seems that aspen is solid enough to carve and it finishes very similar to alder. I am going to look into using birch wood, too. I have heard that birch is quite dense and i wonder how easy it would be to carve.

Beaver mask with human face, in progress...

I am currently working on an alder beaver mask. I hope to be done this soon.

Haida Frog bowl, attributed to Charles Edenshaw

I also have been doing some study sketches of some of the images in my textbooks. The source for the sketch above was from page 97 of the “Transforming Image” textbook [McLennan]. It is of a Haida frog bowl, attributed to Charles Edenshaw.

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There is less than a week until the year end exhibit for we, the students at Freda Diesing School. Most of the submitted pieces will be carvings and although this is a new medium for me, I have to say that I have surprised myself with how well I did. I’m happy with the work and I think that is all that matters.

It’s been quite the year and i think that I will do a bit of a review when I have the time, but for now it’s back to the grindstone. I still have some pieces to finish for the exhibit… Here’s a photo of a red cedar mask that I am working on for the show:

Red Cedar mask

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"Mammon, Midas and Myself"

"Mammon, Midas and Myself", Medium: Alder, Acrylic paint, yellow cedar bark rope


“Mammon, Midas and Myself” – The title for this mask was taken from a Switchfoot song “Faust, Midas and Myself” and it is meant as a personal warning against seeking after wealth.  Midas, was a the mythical king who could turn things to gold just by touching it, but he starved to death because his food turned to gold before he could digest it.

The copper and blue color signifies wealth in northwest coast art.  Copper in the eyes signifies intent.  The open mouth signifies an insatiable appetite. The concave cheeks signify starvation.

Check out my facebook page through the blue “F” tab on the right for more photos.

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Dean Heron, Stan Bevan and Harold Demetzer

Dean Heron, Stan Bevan and Harold Demetzer

Today was the first day back for us students at Freda Diesing School. Many were busy over the break working on their masks. I was busy, too; but not as much as some others. Dean confirmed today that there will be a presentation from Roy Henry Vickers on Thursday and Friday. This is not to be missed. We were told that Roy felt inspired by Harold’s presentation a few weeks ago. Roy is a superb public speaker and during his last official talk that I attended, in 2008, I was quite taken in. This should be a good talk.

Also, I learned today that we will be making deer hide drums this semester. Very cool.

One more thing is that we are making plans for our year end show in April. Stay tuned for this.

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Bill McLennan

Bill McLennan, curator and project manager for the UBC Museum of Anthropology, made another presentation today before going back to Vancouver. Bill touched on a number of different topics, including what characterizes west coast style first nations art?

Bill pointed to the flowing curves and stark angles that balance each other in typical west coast style artwork, all brought together with a sense of tension.  In fact, Bill’s description of NW coast art reminded me of Bill Reid’s description of the art form in The Transforming Image, where he describes the expanding and contracting tension of  NW coast style art.  It should be noted that Bill McLennan and Bill Reid were friends up until Reid’s death in 1998.

So, what makes art, west coast art?  And a question related to this: what makes a piece traditional?

Though this was not quite an easy question to answer, Bill, in true scholarly fashion, gave us some material to work with in order to make our own conclusions. Bill went through a number of photos of bowls that were made over one hundred years ago, and he gave us examples of contemporary work done by Doug Cramner.

Doug Cranmer's "Killerwhales"

Doug Cranmer's "Killerwhales"

Old Grease Bowl

Old Grease Bowl

With the examples of “traditional” work that were given, Bill showed us what I thought was a stark example of how tradition isn’t always what it seems. He showed us examples of Nuxalk carvings that looked more similar to northern styles than to the Nuxalk style that is generally accepted as traditional.

Dempsey Bob always tells us that “innovation must come from tradition”, but he also reminds us that tradition had to start somewhere. So, where does tradition start? I think that this question is as easy as answering where the wind comes from, because what is considered to be traditional changes as social norms change. And social norms can change with technology, geography…any number of items.

Anyways, I have finally completed my most extensive painting yet.  Is it traditional?  All I can say is that many people have already commented about it.  Come to the Terrace Art Gallery on Friday, between 7pm to 9pm, to see it.


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