Journey: Paddles of the Northwest Coast
Northwest Coast art is filled with potent images that continue to evolve to represent the ever changing human dynamics of the ancient yet distinctly modern societies that inhabit the beautiful coastal and river regions of the Pacific Northwest. Some of the most striking of this imagery is often depicted on paddles, at once utilitarian objects but highly symbolic in that they are used to propel the individual, and the community forward. Paddles have traditionally displayed individual crests but today, we see imagery that often makes a social statement, observations about man’s place in the world.
Like the canoes with which they were used, Northwest Coast paddles have distinctive traits that identify the use that they were meant for as well as the tribal origins, sometimes even specific communities. War and whaling canoes would have quite different shapes and the paddles used with them would be different than those used to carry freight. Often canoes used on rivers would be paddled by flat bottomed paddled but also were poled or towed. The sharply pointed blade is thought to have originated with whale and sea otter hunting, and war parties as it slips into the water with less noise than the more rounded tips.
Paddles, like the canoes they were used with, were and are created with the utmost attention to detail. This attention reflected the symbolic importance of these objects in addition to their practical utility. That impetus is not lost on today’s artists whose work the Inuit Gallery of Vancouver is pleased to include in this exhibition. Artists represented include siblings John, Luke and Angela Marston as well as their mother Jane Marston. We are pleased to have examples of the mastery of Joe David, Bill Henderson and Marcel Russ among many others.
Crafted in elegant red and yellow cedar, embellished with shell and other materials, these objects transcend their utilitarian origins and are exquisite works of art.
© Copyright 2014 Inuit Gallery of Vancouver Ltd.