Spirit Wrestler Gallery (Vancouver, Canada)

“naked shaman”


It just so happened that I had been looking for ideas on what to make next, and this is a direct result of being able to go to the College library to sign out books. This time, I borrowed books that mostly were about African Art — and a majority of the works were masks. There were a number of pieces that gave me some ideas, but it wasn’t until I tripped one night in my studio, and as I caught myself from falling, I looked up to see these two bone pieces that I had tied together up in the ceiling ages ago, and from the angle that I was at that moment to them, I could see a place to have a face.

Now, these two pieces of antler have been hanging over my bench in my studio since I built it. They were tied together in this same way, and like many things, I would work on them until I knew exactly what I wanted. This time I spent some more time going through my ideas and finally saw that if I used another piece of bone, I could connect the two pieces at the top. When I put that piece of bone in place, I saw a way to make the face and I went from there with that idea.

The idea I was working on was the negative-space created by the sinew and the copper. As students at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, we were taught to look at everyday objects in a way that was not commonly seen. This often meant that we were encouraged to draw the negative space around an object(s), say, for example, a large rubber plant, rather than the plant itself — and by looking at things this way, you end up learning more than by just looking at the object(s) itself.

When I unhooked the antlers from my ceiling and stood them up on the table, to my surprise I found that they could stand all on their own without any support. Because of that, I wanted the work to stand the same way when is was to be put together.

I also wanted the sinew, which connects the copper to the bone, to represent tattooing, and with just that simple additive it works. The piece might now look like this was an easy thing to come up with — but in reality to have it look correct with the simplicity of the design was another story! As he was a shaman, I thought it appropriate to give him hooves.

—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.