Earth, Wind, Fire and Water: set of four
Four Elements is a fascinating sculpture that inspires viewers to look beneath the surface for what lies below. Each of the four elements depicted—water, earth, fire and wind—is illustrated by a glass spindle whorl. On the top of each whorl is an image representing that element, yet deeper in the sculpture lurk surprises. The element of water is illustrated by ripples, portrayed in frosted glass, emanating from the point where a drop of water must have fallen. Underneath the ripples, salmon appear to swim in and out of view. Earth is represented in the lumbering footsteps of the great grizzly bear, making its way over the textured glass terrain of the second whorl that is created by a method of kiln-casting the glass. Far below, still and quiet, lie Salish artifacts embossed on the underside of the whorl. Fire has left its mark on the third whorl. The flames scorching the top of the piece have consumed what is in their path, leaving a smooth surface created through a technique of fire-polishing the glass. Finally, the wind is marked by deep relief lines sculpted into the glass to yield the effect of erosion, which reveals the silhouette of an eagle’s head.
Each of the four glass whorls is created in a soft-squared format using different woods for the spindles. To highlight the variation between the elements, Point has chosen four very different woods. Oak and walnut are accompanied by purple heart, a hard, brownish wood native to South America that turns purple when the inside is exposed to air, and padouk, a wood resembling rosewood that is native to Africa and Asia. The entire sculpture rests on a striking, highly polished marble base. Four Elements is significant for Susan Point for several reasons. The number four is symbolic for many cultural groups, especially First Nations, because it represents the four directions, four seasons, four corners of the earth, four great races and, as we see here, the four elements. On another level, Four Elements reflects Point’s personal relationship to nature and the four elements. “No artist,” she says, “can ever equal the beauty found in nature. I love the outdoors, and hike and camp whenever I can. This piece, Four Elements, is contemporary and leaves the viewer with the challenge of connecting the elements to the motifs in glass.”
—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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