Born in 1955, Lyle Wilson is a Haisla artist from Kitamaat Village, which is near the town site of Kitimat, British Columbia, Canada. The Haisla Nation is often referred to as Northern Kwakwaka’wakw; however, their historic artistic style has influences from various sources – notably Kwakwaka’wakw and Tsimshian, as well as developing distinctive qualities of their own. The name Kitamaat means, “People of the Snow” and refers to the large amount of snow received by this region. Tsimshian people visiting the Haisla people in mid-winter arrived to see people emerging from big houses completely buried by the snow so the name Kitamaat seemed an appropriate description.
The Haisla Clan system is matrilineal and although he was born into the Beaver Clan, Lyle was formally adopted into his father’s Eagle Clan. Due to the high death rates at this time, his Eagle grandmother formally adopted both Lyle and his sister to help ensure the continuation of the Eagle Clan. This was a small but important event, which helped shape Lyle’s view of Haisla culture.
Lyle was always conscious and appreciative of Haisla art, which was present in his formative years. In this regard, his first artistic influence was his uncle, Sam Robinson, who is a full-time carver. Fascinated, Lyle watched him and occasionally whittled to the best of this abilities. He did not pursue art as a possible profession until he attended the University of British Columbia. At this time, he committed to a career in art education, but found time spent in the studio more compelling – eventually leaving to pursue his own artistic interests at the Emily Carr College of Art and Design. He graduated with a diploma in printmaking and began to develop his individual style. This artistic style has its roots in graphics, but also envelopes his three-dimensional works in wood and jewelry.
Today, a renowned artist, Lyle works closely with University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology where he has further pursued his interest in replicating historic Haisla art for future generations to understand and visualize. Lyle has been involved with many important private and public commissions that have aided in the awareness of Haisla art.
Additionally, he has been involved in a number of group and solo exhibitions since 1981 both locally and abroad. Some of his public commissions can be viewed at the Museum of Anthropology, BC Sports Hall of Fame, Canadian Consulate in Osaka, Japan, Canadian Institute for the Blind, EXPO 1992 and at the UBC First Nations House of Learning.
Works by this Artist (Present + Past + Public)
Price upon request
Yellow Cedar wood, Acrylic paint
This stunning pole was inspired by the story of how the Beaver Clan came to be part of the Haisla Nation. Each figure depicted on the pole represents an important episode in the journey that the characters in the story take. From top to bottom, the figures being depicted include a squirrel, a halibut, a giant man that is holding an otter, and two beavers.
This particular Haisla story is quite old, and Lyle is one of the few individuals who still knows all of the details. The pole is Lyle’s contemporary portrayal of the tale, which pays tribute to the ancient family connections between the present-day Haisla and their neighbors.
Intaglio Print on acid-free paper
Edition of 50
13 x 11.5″ (Paper size)
7 x 5.25″ (Image size)
16.25 x 14.5 x 1″ (framed size)
“My first experience actually seeing traditional carving in situ was fishing eulachon at Kemano. I saw graveyard memorials (ah-aluuch-tin): grey, weather-beaten and somewhat moss-covered, but very impressive in their natural state and site. Although I didn’t know it at the time, it was part of the beginning of my life-long interest in Haisla culture.
The eulachon fish are special to the Haisla people. At Kitamaat, there is a mountain that has a dip in its outline which the Haisla liken to a canoe. When the sun set in this ‘canoe-dip,’ that signaled that the eulachon were about to spawn in the Kitamaat River and all the Haisla eagerly awaited them!
The wildlife that also pursued eulachon was a true natural phenomenon: eagles, seals, sea lions, crows, ravens, seagulls, otters, mink, sawbill ducks, halibut, porpoises, bullheads, and undoubtedly many others one couldn’t see! To represent all of these creatures in one image, a raven, seagull, sea lion and bullhead are shown, each with an eulachon close to their mouths.
The sea gull is important because Haisla history likened the thousands of gulls flying around the estuary of the Kitmaat River to a giant monster’s mouth; therefore, Kitamaat was a place avoided until the first Haisla settled there.
A young Haisla girl sat on the riverbank and watched as a bullhead waited on the river’s bottom and let the current sweep eulachon into its wide mouth. The traditional net (tak-calth) used to fish eulachon also has a wide mouth and also tapers to a narrow end like a bullhead’s body. A bullhead is shown with a net-like pattern on its body, alluding to the tak-calth’s inspiration.”
-Lyle Wilson, 2016
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).