From Pilchuck to Present is a collection of mounted glass works by Susan Point that were started in 2002 during her First Nation artist-in-residence program at the Pilchuck Glass School. Susan was the first Northwest Coast artist to explore the glass medium, although initially her glass works were multiples in small editions. As Susan became more comfortable with the medium she was soon considering the endless possibilities of glass and began crafting glass as a component for her larger works—and this became an element in all aspects of her creative process.
From humble beginnings in the 1970s, the Pilchuck School in Stanwood, Washington, had quickly established a reputation as one of the world’s foremost glass schools. Seattle became a centre for fine art-glass with a network of galleries, museums, and studios, initially supported by a local collector-base fueled, in part, by the bright young individuals working with tech and aerospace industries in the state of Washington.
Today the school has numerous graduates now considered among the elite masters of the medium who are supported by an international collector audience. In 2000, Pilchuck introduced a specific First Nation artist-in-residence program and Susan was chosen for the summer of the 2002 program. For any artist, the opportunity to study in the tranquil setting of a campus situated on a 15,000-acre tree farm in the Cascade Mountains is a rare chance to be immersed in a unique creative environment.
“My experience at Pilchuck was very enlightening and full of energy. Many of the people (students and staff) worked around the clock including myself – working on glass pieces. I learned so much in terms of glass casting, fusing, printing, grail painting and so much more. I worked with a team of professional glass blowers who assisted me in executing my ideas and designs. Preparing for my residency, I decided to concentrate on Salish implements and specifically spindle whorls and rattles for my main forms and shapes. As well, I worked with basketry motifs and stone hammer motifs. Like my ancestors who adorned Salish implements with imagery and design, it is the form over function that is appealing to Salish artisans such as me.”
At the end of her residency, as she left the school, Susan was quickly brought back to reality—particularly with the announcement that Vancouver/Whistler would host the 2010 Olympic Games. Over the next decade she would be selected for numerous public art commissions, with over a dozen within Vancouver and all with 2010 deadlines. The first of these commissions was the three large gates (houseposts) for the Totem Park in Stanley Park. Other commissions included the pillars for the Richmond Olympic Oval; the ninety-foot-long carved panel “Human Spirit” linking the old and new Vancouver Convention Centres; the stained-glass windows for the Christ Church Cathedral; and the entrance floor design for the newly renovated Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia.
Last year, Susan finally had the opportunity to consider designing and mounting this glass collection. She began to apply designs using a variety of etched and applied finishes to the glass forms. At the same time she began to consider bases in wood that would offer both utilitarian support and sculpted forms that complemented the glass objects. By the spring of 2013, she was confident that she could complete the collection for a rare exhibition focusing entirely on glass. This exhibition, “From Pilchuck to Present”, is the first major showing of the artist’s work at the Spirit Wrestler Gallery since the monumental show, Susan Point: Coast Salish Artist was mounted in 2000 (with book release). We are pleased and honoured to present this show to you—and hope that you have the opportunity to view it in person.
At this time, the gallery is also very pleased to announce a further exhibition in Spring 2014 which will feature a virtually complete collection of her graphic works—more than 300 images—from 1981 to the present. For that exhibition an illustrated book is being published which will be a must-have for the many fans and supporters of this extraordinary artist!
Susan Point would like to thank the Spirit Wrestler Gallery and Ron and Susan Crowell for nominating her for the Artist in Residency position at the Pilchuck Glass School. Susan would also like to thank Yves Trudeau of Studio One Glass, Thomas Cannell, David McDougall and especially Ron Denessen for their expertise and assistance.