An intensely personal piece for Susan, Legend is a majestic painted housepost with dramatic images on either side. Although many themes are reflected in the imagery of this housepost, the nature of a legend, or a story that is passed from generation to generation, is portrayed on both a personal and global level.
In this particular piece, the salmon images lie deeper than the surface paint and are actually a part of the cedar panel. This represents the salmon’s connection to all of nature. On a more global level, Nitrogen 15 is an essential element that is traceable due to its chemical composition. It can be found deep in the ocean, in salmon, bears, trees, and even songbirds of the forest. When the bears drag their catch of salmon onto the shore, the Nitrogen 15 is released and absorbed by the tree roots. This process illustrates the powerful connections between all living things. Nitrogen 15 is an element that is transferred through the web of life.
Legends, to First Nations people, are like Nitrogen 15. They form a traceable thread that is absorbed by one generation from the one that came before it. Susan’s Uncle Dominic often passed on legends and teachings about Salish houseposts to Susan. Now, years later, she wishes she had paid closer attention. Now she sees the salmon disappear and at the same time, the stories that kept her people linked through time are also at risk of disappearing.
Legend is particularly near and dear to Susan because all of her family, her husband and children, as well as her Coast Salish Arts family have worked on it. Fittingly, the images on Legend relate to family legends, and the stories passed down through generations. For Susan’s family, the stories of the Salmon People and Beaver and the Mink, a legend that relates specifically to the people of Indian Arm, are two favourite legends that have found their way onto the panels of this housepost.
Coast Salish (Musqueam)
Susan began making limited edition prints on her kitchen table in 1981 while working as a legal secretary. She received several early commissions, which established her reputation for innovative proposals and for completing projects on time, on budget and at the highest level. She took courses in silver, casting and carving, all of which led to monumental sculptures in mixed media, and she was the first Northwest Coast artist to work in glass. She continues to release a number of print editions each year, but her focus has been on commissioned sculpture.
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