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Eagle, Killerwhale, Chief with Copper, Bear with Salmon
64 x 26 x 12"
Coast Salish (Tsawout) Nation
Tom LaFortune is a member of the Tsawout First Nation whose ancestral connections reside in the southern part of what is now known as Vancouver Island. Tom completed his first carving when he was just 11 years old, and has advanced to carving masks, rattles, paddles, dishes, talking sticks, single figures and totem poles. He has also made and painted drums. Tom’s work is often distinguished by its stylistic fluidity and refined use of color.
Tom LaFortune’s works can be found in collections worldwide; most notably his totem poles. These include Harvest Time and Owl Spirit poles completed for Duncan’s City of Totem project, a commission by CBC which was featured on television coverage of the 1994 Commonwealth Games, a single owl figure overlooking the Ross Fountain at the world famous Butchart Gardens in Victoria, S’ael, a twenty-five foot pole completed as part of Royal Roads University’s 75 years of changing lives celebrations, and a Salish arch for the Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site.
Tom lives with his partner, Doreen, in the Victoria area, close to his two sons and daughter and a large extended family.
This piece opens to reveal an inner box with relief engraving that echos the outer lid.
Traditionally, boxes were considered prized possessions and customarily used to store wealth or special ceremonial objects such as masks, rattles, clothing and adornments. People often gave names to these beautiful ornate boxes, told stories about their histories and treated them as family heirlooms. However, non-decorated boxes acted as instruments of life – from storing less precious articles, to food and later used for mortuary purposes. In Haida mythology, a stack of boxes contained the essence from which Raven created the world.
Eagle, Dogfish, Beaver and Frog Box retains its traditional elements through conception and imagery. Derek exhibits his mastery in his precision of line and perfect symmetry of the formline of this treasure. The gently angled lid with Abalone inlay, as well as the engraved and incised elements on the box is suggestive of the prototypic bent cornered wooden boxes and chests.
The box contains not only depictions of four important crest animals, but connects to past traditions in which a box held more than the material object, it also linked people to their heritage, lineage and each other.