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Sterling silver, Cast
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- Additional Information
- Artist Bio
Sterling silver, Cast
|Dimensions||1.5 x 1.5 "|
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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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.
Argillite, Abalone Shell, Sterling Silver, Mastodon ivory
The Hawk takes its place in the supernatural spiritual world, inspiring unique designs for masks, rattles and jewelry. For the Haida Nation, it was used to represent the Thunderbird. Often associated with the Sun, the Hawk can be distinguished by its curled beak which curves to meet the tip of the lower jaw.
When the Raven brought light to the world, some versions of the legend say that it was the Hawk who made the Raven drop the box so it opened, releasing the Sun, Moon and Stars into the Universe.
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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
Price upon request
18K Yellow Gold, Abalone shell, Repousse, Chased, Engraved, Textured
“As kids, we chased after butterflies (Monarch, Painted Lady, Swallowtails, etc.) despite an elder telling us they were once considered ‘souls of dead.’ Of course, we were too young to pay attention to that concept, but with the passage of time, my memories of all those beautiful Lalag°ada (butterfly) tugged at my ‘muse.’
Traditionally, a Lalag°ada meant different things to different Pacific Northwest Coast groups: companion, messenger, savior, supernatural spirit. To me, it’s a pleasant memory from a less complicated time.”
-Lyle Wilson, 2016