In a fine piece of music, a grand theme is often punctuated by a smaller theme that echoes continuously and effortlessly from beginning to end. Consonance, by definition, implies harmony and agreement among components, or a dialogue or recurrence of repeated sounds. Looking at Susan Point’s visual interpretation of consonance brings to the viewer the same ease and satisfaction that Mozart and Beethoven often bring to concert halls as their rhythms and melodies resonate with our own internal rhythms and need to find order in the world around us. In some ways, viewing Susan Point’s piece provides a sense that there is an important and unique place for every creature and every idea in the greater scope of creation.
The inspiration for Consonance came to Point from the Salish legend of the Whale People, which tells of the village’s two fastest warriors, who were chosen to run each day to a lookout point, searching for enemy canoes from villages to the north. One day the two warriors saw people far away on the beach, and they moved in closer for a better look. They discovered not humans, but a group of whales with their qwalow’, or skins, pulled over their shoulders, revealing their human form. One of the runners raced toward these Whale People, hoping to capture one. The Whale People dove back in the water, but because the runner was so fast, he managed to grab one of the qwalow’, allowing only the human form to escape. The second runner warned the first to return the qwalow’ or suffer bad luck, but the first runner only scoffed at him and took the qwalow’ home. Nightmares descended upon him as he slept that night, and they continued every night after. Misfortunes followed him everywhere. Realizing his mistake, he decided to return the qwalow’ to the Whale People. They were grateful, and from that day on, they blessed the runner with the greatest of luck.
Susan Point portrays the human qualities of the orcas in this piece. In First Nations tradition, the orcas are believed to symbolize long life. The orcas’ human forms, as well as the kinship humans share with the whales, are represented by the human faces that appear on each of the fins. In Consonance, Point reminds us that all life is connected and that the whale and humans are both part of Mother Earth’s family. The whole of existence is the sum of its parts. Although only fifteen components are displayed, the piece clearly has no beginning and no end.
“The imagery in this piece, like many of my other pieces,” Point explains, “is to show respect—in this case, to the whales. And to remind us of our obligation to look out and care for these magnificent creatures, who are believed to be very closely related to humankind.”
Consonance was created from castings of two moulds, taken from two original patterns hand-carved in yellow cedar and finished with a bronze polymer.
Susan Point as told to Vesta Giles
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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