Carvers Who Kept
Carving Alive, Part 2
Among those who defied the unjust laws of the time were the artists who continued to carve regalia masks, house posts, great totem poles, and sea- and ocean-going canoes. Here’s one of the carvers whose legacy is a culture that is living and thriving.
Working in traditional forms and modern media (usually gold, silver and argillite), Reid made jewelry before branching into larger sculptures in bronze, red cedar and yellow cedar to bring his ancestors’ visual traditions into a contemporary form.
Reid’s most popular works are three large bronze sculptures, two of which depict a canoe filled with human and animal figures: one black, “The Spirit of Haida Gwaii,” at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C.; one green, “The Jade Canoe,” at Vancouver International Airport, British Columbia. The other bronze sculpture, “Chief of the Undersea World,” depicts a breaching orca and can be seen at the Vancouver Aquarium.
Reid created more than 2,000 works over his career, from the “monumentally small” to the “exquisitely huge,” according to the Bill Reid Foundation. “[He] was the pivotal force in introducing to the world the great art traditions of the indigenous people of the Northwest Coast.” He authored several books on Haida art and culture. Two of his sculptures, “Raven and the First Men” and “Spirit of Haida Gwaii,” were featured on Canada’s $20 note in 2004.
Reid was also an environmental warrior. He participated in the blockades of logging roads, which helped save the rainforests in his homeland; he also stopped work on his “Spirit of Haida Gwaii” sculpture to protest the destruction of Haida Gwaii’s forests.