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Vancouver Art Gallery


Dates 10 June - 17 September 2006 Venue Vancouver Art Gallery Reviewer Ed Farolan


I was at the media presentation of the first major survey exhibition of Haida art last June 8th. The different artworks displayed came from public and private collections throughout North America. The exhibition called "Raven Travelling: Two Centuries of Haida Art" has around 300 of the finest collections of art created over the past 200 years, ranging from totem poles, carved masks, and argillite carvings.

Most of the contemporary Haida artists including Jim Hart, Tom Price and Robert Davidson were present and they talked about their art, after we were given a tour by Chief Curator Daina Augitis of the six sections of the exhibition which covered Haida art from two centuries ago to the present.

The exhibition reflects the mythic realm of Haida art where the Raven is depicted as the trickster, the transformer and creator. Jim Hart's Raven Transformation Mask (1985) is representative of this. The iconic figures in Haida design often refer to one of the two defining Haida clans: Ravens and Eagles. Robert Davidson's Eagles (1991) is one of the poles in the exhibition. Beside it is another pole, Untitled, according toa new and upcoming Haida artist Don Yeomans who also has two other wood carvings in the New Directions section of the exhibit.

The exhibition explores these myths through poles, ceremonial regalia, feasting utensils and tools. The production of art for trade is also on exhibit. Northwest Coast Nations traded art in the 19th century, but the Haida were the first in the early 1800s to create art for exchange with Euroamericans. This was also the black period when the First Nations were subjected to residential housing and there were epidemis and diseases killing off many.

More than fifty renowned artists are featured in the exhibition, with particular emphasis on such innovators as Charles Edenshaw, Bill Reid and Robert Davidson. Also prominently represented are works by a generation of artists who have expanded on this rich tradition, including Alfie Collinson, Reg Davidson, Jim Hart, Isabel Rorick, and Don Yeomans, among others, as well as samples by several emerging artists.

It was also announced that the Haida Heritage Centre at Qay'llnagaay (Queen Charlotte Islands) will have its grand opening in the summer of 2007. For more info, and images of artworks displayed in this exhibit, visit Vancouver Art Gallery.

© 2006 Ed Farolan