White Whale And The Comox Glacier , 46 Inch Round On Plywood
Several years ago I met Jimmy O’Brien from the Salish First Nations band in Comox. He was a photographer and Ann working in the transportation industry travelled around the province of British Columbia. He did a lot of photography and wanted me to do an interpretation in my painting of his photographs.
I met and photographed his family on the first nations reservation in Comox on the Dyke Road, the traditional lands at the komox band. I did a series of photographs on the longhouse and totem poles, and began doing paintings.
I also did research on the genocide at the first nations. 60% of the first nations on the coast were wiped out by smallpox. It was deliberately set and swept up the coast, emptying out the villages to make matters worse. All the children were taken away to schools such as the residential school in alert day. Community is like village an Island. , an alert day. Communities like village an Island died. I have a visitor there and it’s a tragedy to see all the old buildings empty of people totem poles laying on the ground riding away.
It seems to me that nobody can stand in judgment. Hitler and his Nazis with the swastika is an Eagles rounded up people in camps killing 6 million people. Probably because it was so well organized and documented made it particularly gruesome. And with modern technology, films and photographs made it very graphic. There is no documented record until very recently about the death of the first nations people.
I was quite thrilled to work with Jamie O’Brien, and his photographs. Especially photographs of the West Coast. The beaches large old old growth tree trunks on the beach. I would incorporate my themes into his imagery, such as the Cape May lighthouse. I also did totem poles using the faces of his family members.
There is a First Nations Cree artist from Ontario who would do portraits of his members of his band, and then surrounding the portrait, would be the spirits of the people. I would do the same thing out of that. The portrait of the individual would come the family crest. The family crest with a killer whale, the sun and the wolf. my favourite crest was the raven as it is an intra-goal part of the first Nations folklore. The raven helped first nations people when they emerge from the clam shell on the beach. However, the raven was the trickster, and it was up to all kinds of interesting at antics .
It’s interesting that first nations carvers were limited in their pallet of pink initially. For black they used charcoal from their fires, mixed with salmon oil to decorate their totems. They mixed the red from berries and got their green from oxidized copper. But when Whiteman showed up with pigments, they readily adopted a full spectrum of colours with bright yellow Blue and turquoise. The form lines are the key elements. The lines ebon flow rhythmically from from thick to thin describing the forms.
I followed the path of Emily Carr‘s. She would often wait for several weeks to hitchhike a ride with the first nations people from Village Village. She would do drawings and watercolours at the totem poles and later do large scale paintings in oils in her studio. At that time first, Nations Art was not regarded as important as it is today. Emily cars family thought she was wasting her time and should get a real job. The paintings today sell for up to $3.4 million. Emily would be amazed. At one time she quit painting for 12 years . There is no interest in her works. I remember a story about when Jack Shadbolt visited Emily in her home in Victoria. He was a young art teacher, and admired a book that Emily had in her library. Emily said you can have the book or I will give you one of my oil paintings. She had both wife’s great chagrin and disappointment. He chose the book!
One of my favourite sites is the Indian graveyard on the spit in Campbell River. It has some very unique pools. Because Emily Carr painted their, I was thrilled to do my own interpretation as part as of the first nations collaboration. Jamie O’Brien agreed. I also spent time around the komox band And did a painting of Carrie Frank new totem pole, which was on the beach in front of his home on the Dyke Road.