Spirit Wrestler Gallery (Vancouver, Canada)

“the ambivalent shaman”


I was reading George Swinton’s book, Sculpture of the Eskimo. I had seen this book before but didn’t take a very good look at it until this time around. I personally have always found works that have bas-relief or works that have very little stone taken away very interesting — as while there may be very little stone removed, there can be very interesting stories contained within them.

At that point, this piece was still an untouched stone — and I began to work with those older pieces in mind. I don’t think that I was trying to replicate those pieces of the ’50s and ’60s… but was trying to get that idea of the relief across with the sparse detail that is given to the man. He emerges from the stone (in this case from the back of the owl), they become one — he melds into the owl or the owl melds into him. It doesn’t really matter which is which as we are all creatures that are connected in some way or another.

The man is in a trance and we can see this as his eyes are rolled back. His hands have become wings, holding the drum and the drum stick. I used the copper here as copper can be treated to look old. The owl wears a mask that represents the snowgoggles. I added the beak to the goggles to strengthen the appearance that it is part of the owl’s face. The “ambivalent” in the title is the recognition of the two to exist, however differently. We will always find things that will cause conflicts between one another, but we have to work things out if we are to co-exist with each other.

—Michael Massie

Michael Massie

Michael Massie


Inuit, Métis

Happy Valley - Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

(1962- )

Massie’s work is a reflection of his mixed Inuit, Métis and Scottish heritage. In it, he investigates both traditional and contemporary themes. He has achieved renown for his innovative teapots that combine themes and symbols from his native Inuit culture with European traditions. Massie has been twice short-listed for the coveted Prix Saidye Bronfman and has an extensive international reputation. His work has been shown in North America and Europe, including the National Gallery of Canada. He was elected a member of Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 2011.