Marcel Russ was born March 10, 1973 in Queen Charlotte City, Haida Gwaii. Marcel Russ is from the Raven Clan there. Haida parents after whom he takes his rightful place as a Haida, according to the clan system, raised him. Major influences in his life have been his culture, the lifestyle, and the values of his people. Being raised with the influences of native heritage helped to shape his unique world view, values and beliefs. Artisans who influenced him from an early age were his father Ron Russ, Grandfather and his uncle, Chris Russ. The Russ’s are well known argillite carvers of the Haida Nation, and his ancestors on his grandmother’s side were also renowned carvers.
Marcel began argillite carving at the age of eight and started carving in wood when he was twelve. His argillite and wood carvings have been collected internationally and one of his pieces can be seen at the Museum of Northern British Columbia. In the spring of 1999 he exhibited with his father at the Museum of Man in New York.
Marcel’s art reflects his interest in the complexity of multiple meanings. Raven, the trickster figure especially inspires him – a figure of great power with human weakness writ large. Currently, he explores the movement of transforming identities, the animal and human world, the changing shapes of the Raven, the Human, the Sea Wolf and the Killerwhale.
One of Marcel’s goals is to document on film his carving of a totem pole, from the selection of the tree to the pole raising ceremony. He also looks forward to writing a book about his art, the culture of his peoples and his travels.
Marcel likes to carve intricate designs out of argillite and wood. Marcel’s work often incorporates contemporary ideas into traditional design. Each piece of work that he starts has to be ‘finished’ in his mind before he picks up his tools that will bring it to life. Carving is not a career or hobby for Marcel, it is a dedication to the beauty and strength of his heritage. Through his carving, he hopes to create an awareness and respect for the First Nations of the Pacific Northwest.
Marcel resides in Prince Rupert with his family.
Works by this Artist (Present + Past + Public)
Price upon request
Sterling silver, Engraved
The Supernatural Log is more commonly referred to as Snag or Ts’Amos (Alternate spellings: Ttaamuus, Tsamaos). He is the personification of the seafaring Haidas’ obstacles while on the ocean in canoes; driftwood or deadheads. The Snag is an amorphous supernatural creature both in artwork and in legend and first appeared as a crest figure of families along the Skeena River. It is believed to have first appeared on jewelry designs by the famed Charles Edenshaw, whose father took the Snag as a crest.
A Snag can vary in appearance, much like the driftwood it imitates, but it almost always has a snag (deadhead) for a dorsal fin. It can be as simple as a dead log with a tail that can swim against the current. It can be a huge sea lion with dorsal fins and blowholes, or an enormous grizzly bear with a downturned mouth like a dogfish. It can be a hybrid of bear and Killerwhale, or raven and Killerwhale, with multiple bodies. It can be a large frog covered in seaweed with a snag sticking out of its back, and can even be a canoe or a schooner. Most visible at the change of tides, the Snag, if angered can breach and land on canoes, smashing them to bits. He also can make huge waves to capsize boats. The Snag was frequently featured as a protective figure on Bentwood Boxes that contained treasured artifacts, and is frequently depicted with Raven, its counterpart.
The Snag is a very important feature in the Haida legend of How the World Was Formed. Before there was the world as we know it, Raven was flying and flying and flying, and finally came to rest on a single rock, which was the tip of Haida Gwaii and the beginning of the world. This rock, was supported beneath (from the undersea world) by a stone house pole, which was in fact the fin of the Snag. It is therefore common to see the Raven and Snag in conjunction in Haida art. The Snag figure can be seen as an acceptance of responsibility for supporting the world, similar to the Atlas figure in Greek mythology.
It is believed the legends around the Snag was a warning for those who travelled by canoe to be more wary of their surroundings, especially at the change of the tides, and keep them alert on the water. When the tides change, deadheads and hidden logs or obstacles can suddenly appear and be a danger. As the Haida relied on trade with Mainland Nations to survive, it was pertinent for them to be adept at sea, paddling the vast distances to and from the islands to the coast.
The artist’s Past Works at our Gallery have now sold; however, a custom order may be possible if the artist is available and accepting commissions.