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Warlus tusk, Yew wood, Abalone shell
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- Artist Bio
Warlus tusk, Yew wood, Abalone shell
“The Haisla call the skatefish Bag°ana. It’s a creature that lives in the deep, dark waters of the ocean and is seldom seen except by fisherman. It is an intriguing and mysterious creature with a very streamlined, sculptural shape. A young skatefish’s wings have a circular spot, encircled by a fine line, which has been credited with the beginnings of the famous Pacific Northwest Coast Ovoid. I believe the circle shape evolved further by elongating due to the influence of the white eyespot patch of an orca and the ovoid-shape of a skull’s empty eye-sockets. So this tiny sculpture’s back features an orca, while the front has a skatefish and human skull. Just below the Bag°ana, is a single Flicker-feather, which has been credited with the invention of the Split-U.”
-Lyle Wilson, 2016
|Dimensions||4 x 2.5 x 1.25" (10.16 x 6.35 x 3.18cm)|
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.
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Elk hide, Sinew, Acrylic paint
The drum is considered one of the main percussive instruments, along with the rattle, which was used in traditional Northwest Coast ceremonies and cultural events. Its beat provides the basis from which dances, songs and oral histories are performed during a Potlatch.
The Thunderbird is a supernatural, mythical creature that lives high in the mountains and feeds on Killerwhale. It’s been aptly named for the thunder that rolls off its wings and lightening comes from its eyes when it flies.
Ivory, Abalone, Sterling silver, engraved
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Spoons and ladles were traditionally made from either cedar wood or the horn of a mountain sheep, and their handles were carved with family crest images. Historically, these exquisitely sculptured objects were primarily created by people in Northern Nations, and were highly sought after by other nations. During potlatches [festive gatherings], cedar ladles decorated with the hosting family’s crests were used to serve food, while the elaborately carved mountain sheep spoons were distributed as gifts among the many guests.
Today, spoon and ladle productions are based on these traditional objects and are meant to be both objects of function and display. In addition to traditional mediums such as cedar wood, goat or mountain sheep horn, many modern-day spoons and ladles are constructed of gold, silver and pewter.
Other works by this artist
Intaglio Print on acid-free paper
Edition of 50
(For inquiries on custom framing, please contact the gallery)
13 x 11.5″ (Paper size)
7 x 5.25″ (Image 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
Sterling silver, Textured, Engraved
“This group of pendants, brooches and earrings were inspired by an earlier painting of mine entitled ABC’s: Reconstituted, 2011. The subject matter is the English alphabet rendered in the Pacific Northwest Coast (PNC) formline style. It is my recognition that educational ideals are steadily becoming incorporated into the fabric of PNC people’s lives. That’s a good thing, and these jewelry pieces are my little way of recognizing the importance of continuing modern educational ideals.”
-Lyle Wilson, 2016
1976 Montreal Olympiad $5 Dollar Silver Coin, Deeply Sculpted, Engraved, Textured
“This pendant is an example of the traditional Pacific Northwest Coast formline style being adapted to show a relatively modern event. About 30 years ago, my uncle G’psgolox (Dan Paul Sr.) took me to visit some Tsimshian relatives at their fishing camp, which was located way out, and close to the open ocean. G’psgolox stayed in his bigger boat while a Tsimshian friend took me trolling in a small boat. Using a rod and reel, we hooked the biggest spring salmon that I’ve ever caught – over 40 pounds. The size of that salmon has remained in my mind ever since and so I memorialized that event in this silver coin.
The silver coin is thicker than standard silver stock, so it allows me to carve extra deep to give a sculptural look to the pendant. The pendant’s back is left as is to show its beginnings as a coin.”
-Lyle Wilson, 2016