This piece demonstrates that Susan Point is truly a contemporary artist whose deep stylistic roots are based in traditional Coast Salish design. Changing Sea could hardly be labelled a traditional Salish piece, yet the elements of line, form and mythology that define Salish imagery are hard to miss. The familiar characters, such as the salmon, the serpents and the killerwhale, provide the reassuring sense of history and home to this piece that links all of Susan Point’s work.
Changing Sea consists of three carved, painted and laminated red cedar panels. Together, the three sections form a mural that is approximately 4.3 x 1.8 metres (14 feet by 6 feet). Each piece also carries a Salish weaving component. In a style that Point calls “very contemporary and graphic in design,” these panels each tell part of a story. The first panel features a design with four triangular salmon heads coming together within a sharp square. The second panel depicts a mythological two-headed serpent. The third and final panel is of a killerwhale. The four small motifs in copper offer glimpses into the whale and her life’s journey. In her dorsal fin are birds. In her eye is a sea serpent. The pectoral fin harbours fish, and in her tail is a baby. “To me,” Point says, “the set reflects the waters of the Pacific, woven into the lives of the Coast Salish peoples.”
—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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