Spirit Wrestler Gallery (Vancouver, Canada)

“it’s yours, if you learn to play”


“It’s yours,if you learn to play.” It was over 40 years ago I heard my grandfather say those words.

We were on one of our family trips to Northwest River, Labrador, to visit our grandparents. On this particular trip, there happened to be most of the grandchildren, the aunts and the uncles all visiting at the same time. The days were as usual for back then: up early and off to the beach, back for lunch, and then off again to the beach — or maybe just exploring. When it came time for supper, we all met back at my grandparent’s house, and there we ate and laughed until the early evening. On this particular night, the youngest of the grandchildren (including me), were sitting around watching one of the two TV channels we had back then — when grandfather came into the living room, and in his hands he held a fiddle and bow. This was the first time I remember seeing the fiddle, and it was beautiful. Grandfather pulled the bow across the strings and it made a high-pitched squeal — but the more he played, the better the notes sounded. After playing a tune that made some sense to those who knew the music, he turned to us grandchildren and said, “it’s yours, if you learn to play.”

Well, for a young boy like me, this seemed like a challenge and, of course, I wasn’t the only one with that on his mind. We all took our turns trying to make it sound as if we knew what we were doing. This was by far from the truth, we all made it sound like cats fighting! This didn’t stop us from trying every time we had the chance. Over the years it became less and less that we tried to make it sound like it was meant to sound.

I haven’t seen that fiddle for 30 years now… and I wonder what has happened to it. Maybe some day we will meet again!

Originally this piece started out as a figure, and he was to hold a book in one hand and a sword in the other. One evening a friend and I were talking about what the piece was about and I somehow brought up the story of the fiddle… and that was when I changed the book for the fiddle and the sword for the bow. It was great fun for me to make the fiddle because I could work with wood again. I wanted the fiddle to have all the proper characteristics as a real one — and the same was true for the bow. When I had made a previous piece (the dragonflies), I had visited a local metal scrap yard to get the bronze for that one — and while there I had seen a boat propeller that stuck in my mind — and I knew it would be perfect for the wings to this piece. So, back I went and, sure enough, the propeller was still there waiting for me.

This sculpture is that moment as grandfather is saying those words to us. I made his face this way because he could make the funniest faces at times. The hand that holds the fiddle is made large because if you had ever met him, you would have been amazed by the size of them in comparison to his height. The wings symbolize the fact that he has now passed away — but telling the story is how you keep those moments alive.

—Michael Massie

Michael Massie

Michael Massie


Inuit, Métis

Happy Valley - Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

(1962- )

Massie’s work is a reflection of his mixed Inuit, Métis and Scottish heritage. In it, he investigates both traditional and contemporary themes. He has achieved renown for his innovative teapots that combine themes and symbols from his native Inuit culture with European traditions. Massie has been twice short-listed for the coveted Prix Saidye Bronfman and has an extensive international reputation. His work has been shown in North America and Europe, including the National Gallery of Canada. He was elected a member of Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 2011.