Gryn White’s aboriginal name Duugwi.is means “Strong Haida”, and he has descended from an impressive lineage of renowned artists. His great-great grandfather is Charles Edenshaw (1839-1920), a chief of thee StA’stas Eagle clan and who was considered the most influential Haida artist of his time. One of Charles’ granddaughters Lavine White, the daughter of Emily Edenshaw and Henry White had a son Greg Lightbown who is Gryn’s father.
Gryn is a part of the Raven clan and his crests include the Bear, Killerwhale and Shark (Dogfish).
His father was an argillite carver for over 40 years, but he credits his grandmother with the impetus to become an artist. At first, his parents tried to discourage him because the profession is unpredictable and it can be a struggle to follow in his elder’s footsteps.
Gryn pursued his passion and began to carve in his early teens by providing assistance to his father. When he completed school, he moved from Old Masset in the Queen Charlotte Islands to Vancouver to attend Langara Community College where he studied fine arts in design and art history.
Impressed with learning about contemporary art, he took this awareness of seeing and identifying negative space, balance, symmetry, shape, line and form back to the Haida design principles and applied it to the rules of formline design.
“I began to see the rules of Haida design as deeply rooted in our culture. It gave me the understanding of what Charles Edenshaw and Tom Price had achieved, and what Bill Reid has restored to Haida art. They became my teachers.”
“I want to create contemporary Haida art within these traditional boundaries. I’m not much interested in coming up with a new form of Haida art. I want to honour and feel continuity with the past.”
For now, Gryn is completely immersed in learning about the traditional formand exploring the tension between “old style” and original innovation with the intention of developing his own personal style. Still, he proudly acknowledges his strongest inspiration is his father and has always recognized that he wishes to be just like him.
Gryn continues to perfect his work and is continuously involved with ideas. He has filled many sketchbooks and credits the argillite stone with suggesting the form that it will take. As a perfectionist, he’s meticulous and precise, and he uses embellishments of prized Abalone shell, Catlanite and bone.
This is a meaningful art form for Gryn, one connects him to Haida Gwaii, his people and the land and animals of his island home.
Works by this Artist (Present + Past + Public)
According to the oral traditions of the Northwest Coast, there was once a man named Gunarh whose beautiful wife was kidnapped by a Killerwhale. He took her to the underwater village of the powerful Killerwhale People, and planned to wed her as soon as he could create a dorsal fin and attach it to her back. However, Gunarh was determined to rescue his beloved. He undertook a series of perilous tasks, going so far as to ride on the back of a mighty Killerwhale to reach the village in the depths of the sea. There, Gunarh successfully extracted his wife from the Chief Killerwhale’s longhouse, rescuing his love and returning with her to their own earthly village.
This is a common myth amongst the Haida people but there are many versions of this legend base on the Nation which is telling the story. In some versions, Gunarh is instead called Nanasimget.
The powerful, human-like Bear was referred to as ‘Elder Kinsmen’ and treated as a high-ranking guest when killed. As a close relation to mankind, Bear is considered to be the link between the human and non-human realms as well linking the secular natural with the supernatural or the divine. The Bear symbolizes courage, strength, authority and learned humility.
Argillite, Catlinite, Abalone shell
Revered as a great hunter, the Sea Wolf (Wasgo) was often associated with a special spirit power that man had to acquire to become a successful hunter. Four features that the Sea Wolf can be identified by are an elongated snout with flared nostrils, several large teeth (which may include canines), prominent ears, and a curled-over tail. Crucially, the mythical Sea Wolf is often indicated by the addition of fins or flippers to traditional wolf imagery. This creature is known to many nations, and is called Wasgo in Haida legend.
The artist’s Past Works at our Gallery have now sold; however, commissions may be available – please inquire here (please note that not every artist accepts commissions).