When I first began carving, I would try work with the shape and let it tell me what it wanted to be — and this is what I was thinking as I worked with this stone — trying to take away as little as possible. In this stone I could see a figure with the flowing lines and movement of Umberto Boccioni’s bronze, ‘Unique forms of Continuity’, 1913. I can remember studying this piece when at college (Nova Scotia College of Art and Design), the Futurist movement wanted their works to express speed, violence, dynamic movement, and the passage of time — but their techniques were derived from the cubists, which happens to be my favourite period in art history — Western art history that is!
From the very beginning, I could already see the kind of lines in the grain of the raw stone that could represent movement. Noting this in my head, I thought of the first few pieces I made in stone, which were much simpler, but had those flowing lines that made sense… even with the least amount of detail, and this was something that I wanted to go back to with this one. So, starting from there, I began to look at this stone with the idea of taking away as little as possible — and luckily for me, this piece of stone was very kind in that way, with very little that needed to be taken away in order to achieve the final shape.
As I was working the main body of the piece I was thinking of the head that needed to be added. I had wanted to make it out of serpentine at first, but later chose to go with the bone as it has a better contrast with the anhydrite. While in Ottawa recently, I had picked up a book on Picasso which had on the cover the images of Guernica — and the head of the woman on the far left is the one I used as a model for my head. Because of the shape of the stone, where the tail of the coat is lifted by the wind and the forward movement of the upper body, I wanted something that would match the shape. The design just happened to work so well that I went with it.
The hair idea went through a number of stages before coming up with the idea of using my own hair… I figured I had enough, so why not! I then had to add teeth and this was the best way for them. For the eye I opted to go with a similar design as Karoo Ashevak’s, Spirit Figure, 1972, (shown in the Inuit Art book by Ingo Hessel). Because Karoo was considered the Picasso of the North, I figured it only fitting to do so. I have it that there is one eye open - and the other is closed, illustrating that feeling you get when something cold goes up or down your back.”
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.
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