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Ivory, Abalone, Sterling silver, engraved
Only 1 available
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- Additional Information
- Artist Bio
Ivory, Abalone, Sterling silver, engraved
|Dimensions||7.5 x 1.25 x 2"|
1950 – 2011
In 1950, Russell Smith was born in the village of Alert Bay, BC. He was the direct descendant of six chieftain bloodlines. His maternal genealogy descended from the great Chief Abraham. Russell’s maternal grandfather was Isaac Abraham, Chief of the Walas Kwakiult at Fort Rupert. Edith Dawson, his maternal grandmother was the daughter of Chief Amos Dawson of the Mamalekala tribe of Village Island.
Russell’s mother, Elizabeth Abraham, was a member of the Thunderbird Clan. She was the bearer of the aural history of the family genealogy and a maker of button blankets and aprons. It was through her teachings that the traditional knowledge of Kwakwaka’wakw social order and language was passed on to Russell and his two elder brothers, Jerry and Clayton.
Their paternal grandfather, Jerry Brown, was a Hope Island Chief of Fort Rupert. He was well known among the people and respected as a traditional dancer. The name Jerry Brown has been recorded in history books of the white man. He was so faithful in his adherence to the Kwakwaka’wakw ways that he performed the potlatch undaunted by the laws that prohibited all traditional ceremonies, and in 1922 he was arrested for taking part in the 1921 December potlatch at Village Island. He served two months in Oakalla Prison. The only direct descendant of Chief Jerry Brown is Russell’s father, Jacob Smith.
It was from a deep fountain of stories, songs, dances, legends, spirits and mythical creatures that Russell recreated the very images that would guide his hand in the powerful cut of the carver’s blade or the delicate touch of a paint brush.
Russell began woodcarving in 1968. Within a year, Bill Holm asked him to assist in the restoration of a Southern Kwakiutl Long House at the Pacific Science Centre in Seattle. This longhouse was opened in June of 1971 as part of a long-term exhibit on the Development of Man and the Environment.
In the early 1980’s with the encouragement of his cousin, Lloyd Wadhams, Russell began working with precious metals. During 1973 and 1974 he received instruction in wood carving from Doug Cranmer and Larry Rosso at the Vancouver Museum. In 1977, Russell learned the art of repousse from Bill Reid, Gerry Marks, Phil Janze and the English goldsmith, Peter Age. He went on to create stunning pieces in gold, silver, and copper.
Russell studied the ancient and traditional designs of his Kwakwaka’wakw heritage. He worked with wood, ivory, paint and precious metals, imprinting his singular powerful style into totem poles, masks, bowls, rattles, frontlets, drums, jewelry, and canvas. In each creation, a vision would stand revealed. Each piece records the history of the Kwakwaka’wakw in a perpetual re-enactment of natural order and harmony. No two of Russell’s works are the same; each is alive and hypnotic.
A number of apprentice carvers and jewelers have learned design, form, colours, shape and function from Russell’s inimitable style. He taught other selected artists repousse techniques in gold and silver. He had a twenty-year collection of photographs and slides of the most exquisite pieces housed in museums and private collections throughout the continent. In his quiet and unassuming manner, he shared most generously and eagerly his knowledge of the art.
Since earliest childhood, Russell was also encouraged to participate in traditional dance forms. His mother made his dance outfits, and at the age of eighteen, he made a concerted effort to learn certain dances from the elders. Russell was skilled in performing numerous dances and ceremonial songs and he had performed as far abroad as Japan.
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Red Cedar wood, Yellow Cedar wood, Abalone shell, Acrylic paint, Leather
The carving of flutes of the Northwest Coast extends back historically through time. The dramatic importance of the flute was indicated by the variety of specialized whistles, each of which was produced to make specific tones. Songs and dances were part fo all ceremony and ritual, a fundamental element of the inherited privilege. Equally important were the many whistles and other musical instruments that were specifically designated for most dances. Wooden whistles of one, two or three shafts, each with several holes and reeds produced a strong and clear note. Flutes and whistles were traditionally blown in the woods to introduce the cermonial season. Every instrument was the object of time, skill and concern and was considered by those who owned it as a necessary part of the family’s collection
Bronze Cast, Marble base
Edition of 12
9.5 x 8 x 5″
Volcano Woman is perhaps one of the oldest and most revered legends which tells of a mortal”s fate if he/she does not treat sacred objects or creatures with respect. In defense of her beloved wild creatures, she controls the powerful volcanoes. Stories tell of how the killing of a frog leads the Volcano woman to destroy an entire village.
Volcano Woman is a supernatural, powerful person in First Nations mythology. She had a son who, like his mother, had supernatural abilities. He often liked to change from his Human form to that of a Frog (Wukus).
Years ago, a Prince and his two friends went fishing. Hungry, they lay their food on leaves. The Wukus (Frog), being mischievous, jumped on their food. Twice the young Prince threw the Frog into the shrubs but on the third time they threw the frog into the fire and killed the innocent creature.
A few nights later, a woman could be heard crying and wailing. “Who has done this, come forward and I will spare your village.” This warning went unheeded for some time until finally a Woman of the Elders went to the village outskirts to see her. Volcano Woman instructed the Woman of the Elders to send forth the three young men and she would spare the village from volcanic destruction. The Woman of the Elders begging for the sake of the Village told of Volcano Woman”s ultimatum – but this warning went unheeded.
On the final night of the village’s existence, Volcano Woman was heard saying, “I asked for those responsible to take heed and now you will know my vengeance.” The Village shook, a Volcano erupted, destroying the village and all who lived there.
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Argillite, Abalone shell, Mother of Pearl, Catlanite
This ornately detailed panel pipe inlayed with catlanite, abalone shell and mother of pearl tells the ancient story of Nanasimgit.
The man or Nanasimgit is depicted at the bottom of the pipe holding skils to represent his stature. It shows the numerous potlatches he has held. The following story is a shortened version as told by the artist, Christian White:
One day, the man’s wife was washing sea otter skins near the ocean, when a Killerwhale arose from the surface. It coaxed her into the water and carried her seaward while her husband watched in disbelief. Without hesitation, he quickly decided to follow them until the Killerwhale dove near a two-headed kelp, which prevented him from going any further. He was feeling quite distraught as he returned back to the village but by then he had decided to seek the help of his uncle, the Frog.
The Frog offered him advice on how he could get his wife back and suggested that he take specific objects with him for his journey. He brought spruce root twine, a gimlet and medicine, placing them in his canoe. But, before he embarked on his journey, he was urged to undergo a fast in order to cleanse his body, which involved various rituals.
Once the fast was completed, the man embarked on his quest until he came across the kelp he had encountered before. He tied his canoe to the kelp along with his possessions and climbed down beneath the surface to find himself in another world. He followed a path where he encountered three blind women that resembled Geese. He used his medicine to cure two of the women while the third one chose not to accept the medicine. The cured women vowed to repay him for his deed. As he proceeded onward, the man came across two slaves, from the Killerwhale clan, chopping wood. As they proceeded to chop the wood, the head of their axe fell off and they began to cry knowing the consequences they would face from the Chief. The man stopped to assist them and in return they directed him to his wife’s dwelling. The slaves warned the man of the watchmen pole that stood in front of the longhouse protecting the inhabitants. The watchmen had the ability to scent out and watch out for intruders.
While he proceeded further on his path and thought about how to divert the watchmen, the man encountered a Heron repairing a canoe without success. The man stopped to offer him his gimlet to successfully repair the canoe. In return for his generosity, the Heron helped conceal the man under his wing blanket from the Black Whale guards and the watchmen. He successfully entered the longhouse to happily find his wife. At this point, the watchmen discovered the man taking his wife back with him, but were unable to stop him.
When the man arrived back with his wife to his village he felt a different connection with her, as though she was not herself. At night, he would keep her in a bentwood box, but one morning when he awoke, to his surprise she escaped. She left to be with her Killerwhale family and fully transformed into a Killerwhale. This was the last he saw of her.