In the wall sculpture Coming Back, Susan Point illustrates the powerful and recurring theme of salmon triumphantly completing their life cycle. This piece, however, has a dual purpose, highlighting a revitalized appreciation for the Coast Salish art form. “Not only does it represent the journey of the salmon as they come back each year to spawn,” Point explains, “but it also represents the fact that Salish art is coming back.”
The salmon are a metaphor for the theme of change along a journey. Each carries a spindle whorl, adorned with Salish crescent forms that progressively change and expand from one whorl to the next, and each contributes to the overall design. The spinning of the spindle whorl represents the circle of life continuously in motion. Point has chosen to use round whorls, rather than soft-squared or other shapes, to further emphasize the easy, unaffected rotation of the circle.
As a tribute to the diversity available in the sculptural medium, Point carved the first salmon (on the bottom) out of red cedar. She then made a rubber mould of the piece and cast three more identical salmon in coloured paper. Bright colours for these three were chosen to symbolize different stages of the salmon’s journey as well as illustrate the unrestricted possibilities of Coast Salish art in different and contemporary mediums.
“Not only do salmon change colour in the time before spawning,” Point notes, “but art, in general, also changes over time.”
—Susan Point as told to Vesta Giles