Transformation Mask

Haida master Charles Edenshaw inspired modern artists

Bill Reid is known for bringing B.C. native art to the world. A new book and show celebrate the artist who inspired him, Charles Edenshaw

Doris Shadbolt’s 1986 book Bill Reid beautifully chronicles the career of Canada’s best known Haida artist, whose signature works reside at the University of B.C., Vancouver International Airport and the Canadian Embassy in Washington D.C.

French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss declared that Reid “tended and revived a flame that was so close to dying,” and lifted Northwest Coast aboriginal art onto the world stage.

More than two decades later comes a book and exhibition to recognize the artist who kept that flame alive at its lowest ebb, and passed it down to Reid and other modern masters of Haida art.

Charles Edenshaw was born in 1839 and died around 1920, after surviving the second wave of smallpox that devastated aboriginal populations along the B.C. coast.

In a foreword to the lavishly illustrated book Charles Edenshaw, Haida chief and carver James Hart describes how the young artist learned the ancient ways at a time when his culture was struggling to survive European settlement, disease and cultural domination.

“Charles still worked with his Uncle Albert Edenshaw, carving totem poles, argillite, etc., perfecting his artistry,” Hart writes. “Carving was – and is – our way of writing, recording history, showing our prerogatives, our stories, our beliefs, our religion.”

Robert Davidson, perhaps the most famous Haida artist since Reid’s death in 1998, is Edenshaw’s great grandson. Davidson and later Hart were taught by Reid, closing a circle that began when Reid learned the Haida way of carving from his maternal grandfather, who had been trained by Charles Edenshaw.

“The magic of Edenshaw’s work embodies millennia of development of Haida art,” Davidson writes in the book.

• An exhibition of more than 200 of Charles Edenshaw’s works, assembled from public and private collections around the world, is at the Vancouver Art Gallery from Oct. 26 to Feb. 2.

Charles Edenshaw, the companion book to the exhibition, is published by the Vancouver Art Gallery and Black Dog Publishing, London England.

 

Just Posted

New accessible playground opens at View Royal’s Eagle View Elementary School

Students overjoyed while faculty and parents feel relief

With $4M investment, Camosun College offers first sonography program on Vancouver Island

Starting in May 2020 students from Vancouver Island can pursue a career in sonography

Greater Victoria developer rushes to demolish historic wall before Oak Bay applies heritage permit

Abstract Development punches holes in one of Oak Bay’s oldest stone walls

$775-million wastewater project on track to be completed on time, within new budget

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins praises public education aspect of project

Scheer, Trudeau, Singh haggle over potential minority government outcome

If you believe the polls, it appears the Liberals and Conservatives are neck-and-neck

POLL: Do you think the day of the federal election should be a statutory holiday?

Increasing voter turnout has long been a goal of officials across the… Continue reading

Canucks beat Stanley Cup champs 4-3 in a shootout

Leivo nets winner, Vancouver dumps St. Louis for fourth straight win

Campbell River homicide suspects arrested in Vancouver

Two men remain in custody, but have not been charged

‘The more you test, the more you find’: Beef recalls a sign of success, experts say

Despite appearances, experts say a recent rise in major recalls is not a sign of food supply problems

Elizabeth May confirms plan to eliminate fish farming in open ocean pens

Green Party leader stops in Qualicum Beach as part of Island campaign

STRIKE: WFP and USW are back at the table for mediation

“No further updates until either an agreement is reached or one party or the other breaks off talks”

Green Party leader Elizabeth May rolls through Vancouver Island to boost a party stronghold

Mocks media, evokes Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and promises change

Japanese buyer expands wood pellet contract with B.C.’s Pinnacle

Mitsui and Co. increases contract with Interior energy producer

Most Read