Posts Tagged “Tradition”

We had a visit today by about 50 kinder garden students who pulled up in a big yellow bus. I enjoyed talking with the young ones. Some of them asked questions, others talked about seemingly random things, others were very shy and quiet. I was kind of amazed to see one student pointing out the crests that he saw in the class and declaring that he was from the eagle crest. He was probably taught by someone older than himself, perhaps his elders.

Barry Sampere

Barry Sampere

A really great thing about Freda Diesing School is the seamless mixture of old and young students. The ages range from 19 to 70 and no one really notices. The younger students glean from the older and the older students get new ideas from the younger. It almost parallels the symbiosis between traditional and modern art, because the young would not be as strong as they could without the old and the old, likewise. I’ll say it again, this is what makes this school really great.

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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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