Says Susan Point, “This piece is about the age-old story of fear and doubt, ignorance and misunderstanding, which leads to anger.” Point often integrates the theme of “peoples from the four directions coming together and forming a multicultural society” into her work. As she says, “All too often we look away from or mistrust others because they are different in appearance, customs or beliefs.” In Celebration of Differences, each of the four characters in the piece has a strong presence and a unique point of view—one not shared or acknowledged by the others. Their differences are striking. Perhaps even more remarkable, though, are their similarities, of which they may not even be conscious.
Whenever we see a box of any kind, it is hard to not wonder what is inside. Symbolically, the contents of this box are shared by the four characters. It is what they share—values, heart and humanity—that makes them, and us, stronger. The goose images, in positive and negative, link the faces and symbolize movement and migration. Through this bird, which is known for its habit of migrating to other lands and cultures, it becomes possible for us to see or to move toward the other points of view in this piece. Traditionally, bentwood boxes were used to store blankets, ceremonial regalia, food and cooking utensils—the essentials of life. The blankets supply warmth and security, the regalia is a vehicle for cultural and spiritual practices, and the food, bowls and cooking utensils offer nourishment. All these items are essential for the health of a community, regardless of race, culture or religion. Point has added a further element, that of support, to the story of the piece, by placing a Salish weaving on the top of the box, giving it the appearance of a bench. “Support,” according to Point, “is what we accomplish when we all work or come together.” The theme of bringing people together to contribute to the greater good extends to the construction of the piece. Susan Point gathered many of her friends to share in the process. Tom Hunt assisted in the carving of the yellow cedar faces while the red cedar box was skillfully bent by Larry Rosso, from material supplied by John Livingston. The lid was made by Peter Grant, and the exceptional Salish weaving for the top was provided by Point’s niece, Krista Point. Each of these contributions complements Susan Point’s original design and unique carving style.
—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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