“Joy is a well-made object, equaled only by the joy of making it.” – Bill Reid, 1988
Bill Reid (1920-1998) was an acclaimed master goldsmith, carver, sculptor, writer, broadcaster, mentor, and community activist. He was born in Victoria, BC to a Haida mother and an American father with Scottish German roots. The Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art was created in 2008 to honor his legacy.
Its purpose – noted at the gallery – also included a celebration of “the diverse indigenous cultures of the Northwest Coast,” with Reid becoming recognized as a pivotal force in building bridges between indigenous citizens of the Northwest Coast and other First Peoples.
Particularly connected with this heritage, it can also be noted that through his mother, Reid was a member of the Raven clan from T’aanuu with the wolf as one of the family crests. This mythical Raven is known as a Mischievous Trickster who also plays an important part in transforming the world, traits which were observed often in Bill Reid’s personality. The happy result of these distinguishing features was that, in recognition of the affection many had for him, Reid was presented in 1986, with the Haida name Yaahl Sqwansung, meaning The Only Raven.
At the gallery, one special masterpiece is the onyx edition of his The Raven and the First Men sculpture, the subject of the prior post in this series. Like the other versions, it features the Raven crouched over a clamshell from which six men are emerging, and it is inscribed “Bill Reid – ’86.”
The Raven is the theme of Bill Reid’s most famous sculptures. This onyx version is part of the Simon Fraser University Bill Reid Collection, to which the Bill and Martine Reid Collection was gifted in 2011, honoring the university’s deep commitment to First Nation cultures. The Bill Reid Gallery is home to the Simon Fraser University Bill Reid Collection.
At the gallery, we also discovered – a surprise to us – that the Bill Reid Gallery in addition also houses a small 22k gold edition of this sculpture, dated 2002.1.24. Other editions include the small original boxwood edition from 1970 and the large yellow cedar sculpture at University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology, described in the previous post in this series. And overall recognition of the importance of the sculpture was its placement on the $20 bill as a part of the Canadian Journey series.
Photographs of selected other Northwest Coast Art objects at the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art – as well as a group of images of the work of contemporary artists specializing in Northwest Coast Art – can be viewed here.