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Yellow Cedar, Abalone shell
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- Additional Information
- Artist Bio
Yellow Cedar, Abalone shell
|Dimensions||12.5 x 1.75 x 0.5"|
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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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.
Yellow Cedar wood, Acrylic paint
“People of the Eagle” Frontlet, masterfully carved and painted by Kwakwaka’wakw artist Barry Scow, represents the Chief and his people of the Eagle clan. True to form of Barry’s fine carving, this frontlet portrays the Eagle with Sun, and commemorates Barry’s link to his Grandfather, who was a Chief, and to his heritage.
A Frontlet is a forehead mask attached to a woven headpiece, worn only by Chiefs and high-ranking individuals in order to display status. This particular frontlet carries the Eagle and Sun motif. The Eagle position belonged to the highest-ranking Chief in the village.
The Eagle lives in the sky, or Upper World, and represents status, power, peace and friendship. Eagle is the Chief of the birds, an honor he shares with the Woodpecker. The Sun is a popular Kwakwaka’wakw motif, used quite regularly in their art. The sun can represent life and creative forces as well as warmth and healing.
To further establish his high position, the Chief practiced a traditional act of discarding his wealth in front of other Chiefs. Much of this wealth was in the form of copper. To break the copper or throw it into the ocean, symbolized that he and his clan were modest of their wealth and that the value of friendship weighed more than the value of material wealth.
To assist the Chief with this historical display of modesty, a subordinate was appointed. The assistant is portrayed below the beak of the Eagle, carved in intricate detail, as one can see in the teeth and tongue of the human face. Another beautiful component of this piece are the Chief’s people, delicately cradled in the beak of the Eagle.
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.
Other works by this artist
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