“The recent sculpture, The Soul of Kwanalas (Yellow Cedar), 2007-08, began as a yellow cedar log acquired in 1994. First Nations carvers generally avoid wood with knots and other natural flaws, preferring edge grain that is more amenable to carving. While Wilson does not actively seek out wood containing significant imperfections, he does not discard a piece whenever he strikes a flaw and, as in this case, often exploits a knot to great effect. The work, which comments on the brutality of commercial logging, evokes the force of nature through the look of resignation on the “face” of a tree, its sense of despair personified by the knot/tear that emerges from its right eye. The stylized root system of the tree also evokes the natural world, as does the creature ( a generalized bear) carved in relief in the back element of the sculpture. This is both a piece of virtuoso carving—with a wonderful precision of detail and tautness of line—and a remarkable shift in iconography rooted in history but very much of the present.”
excerpt from Challenging Traditions by Ian M. Thom, pp.167, 168
Lyle Wilson is a Haisla artist from Kitamaat village, which is near the town site of Kitamaat, British Columbia, Canada. The Haisla tribe is often referred to as Northern Kwakiutl, however, their historic artistic style has influences from various sources — notably Kwakiutl and Tsimshian, as well as developing distinctive qualities of their own. The name Kitamaat means “People of the Snow” and refers to the large amount of snow received by this region. Tsimshian people visiting the Haisla people in mid-winter arrived to see people emerging from longhouses completely buried by the snow so the name Kitamaat seemed an appropriate description.
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