Friday, June 8, 2012

Vancouver - Bill Reid Gallery

 We had a quick stop over in Vancouver before heading on our west coast trip to Kamloops for a wedding, then drove through the Okanogan Valley enroute to Seattle.  With only a few hours for sight seeing, we chose to visit the new Bill Reid Gallery in downtown Vancouver.  The Gallery provided interesting information and artifacts from his earlier years, before showing his more famous pieces.

One of Reid's earliest attempts at carving was a minature tea set which he created from classroom chalk and painted with nail polish.  It is so small and intricate that it needs to be viewed under a magnifying glass.

The highlight of the gallery is Reid's carving called Mythic Messengers which spans an entire wall of the Great Hall where it is hung up high.  It can be seen at eye level from the second floor, where a video helps to isolate and describes each of the five central components.  These consist of:
  1. A Grizzly Bear family with the bear prince, his human wife and their two baby cubs
  2. A Killer Whale which abducts a woman while her husband hangs on in front
  3. A Sea Wolf who eats three whales a day
  4. A Dog Fish with a female shaman hanging onto its tail
  5. A Eagle Prince riding in the beak of a giant eagle
  Also on the second floor are a collection of stamps, wire sculptures that were unique in that each one was created with one continuous piece of wire (unlike Calder or Picasso who did similar work) and an in depth examination of Bill Reid's art on the Canadian $20 bill.

There are four images on the $20 bill.  The most prominent is his iconic sculpture of "Spirit of the Haida Gwai" with all the creatures paddling in the canoe.  Behind it is a round yellow ceremonial drum embossed with the image of a grizzly bear.  Faintly imprinted in the lower left corner is his equally famous Raven and the first men with the large raven sitting on top of the clam shell containing the first Haida people. And in the top right corner is the Killer Whale portion of the Mythic Messengers.

There was an entire room dedicated to Bill Reid's jewelry designs including brooches, necklaces, pendants, bracelets. I liked the "Cluster of Seven Frogs" necklace with 22 karat gold frogs attached by pale blue sea snail shells.

Reid's drawings and paintings show his changing styles, from traditional Haida images and colours, to renderings that still depict Haida themes but with a more modern interpretation.  He even created drawings that reference back to his carvings, as in his 1991 "There Are Two Sides to Every Story".which shows two "Spirit of the Haida Gwai" canoes battling the rough seas.

 Next to Bill Reid's beautiful burial coffin was a video describing the final journey to bring his ashes to his grandmother's birth village.  The box was carved by Don Yeomans and was used to hold a smaller mortuary box containing the ashes.

My favourite piece in the gallery is his Killer Whale sitting on a rolling wave made of bronze with jade patina.  When I first looked at it from the front, it looked almost black, but when I walked behind it and saw it with the light shining, the sculpture seemd to gleam with an emerald green hue.

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