For the first time, the Sunshine Coast Arts Centre is exhibiting a show of art works exclusively by artisans who live and work on the traditional lands of the shíshálh First Nation.
The exhibition, titled Texem-ay (red cedar), opened Aug. 8 at the Centre’s Doris Crowston Gallery in Sechelt. It features pieces by cedar weaver Shyanne Watters, carver Derek Georgeson, and painter and carver Levi Darrow Purjue.
Sunshine Coast Arts Centre curator/director Sadira Rodrigues came up with the idea for the show to coincide with the Hackett Park Arts and Crafts Fair on the weekend of Aug. 17 and 18.
“We’ve never had an exhibition of just artists living in the shíshálh community,” Rodrigues said. “I approached the [Arts Council] board about it and they were excited, so I developed it.”
Watters, who teaches cedar weaving on the Coast and across B.C., said she learned the basics of the craft about 20 years ago from Fran Nahanee, the owner of Tsain-ko Gifts in Sechelt. “Now, I’m known right across the country for my hats,” Watters told Coast Reporter.
Georgeson, who is Watters’s husband, did not realize he had a gift for carving until he was talked into trying it ten years ago by his cousin, totem pole creator Darren Blaney. “He was doing a totem pole and needed help and he asked me if I wanted to carve. I said no. He kept it up. Then after the third day of him asking, I thought I’d give it a shot. After that, I never put down the knife. I kept going,” said Georgeson.
Purjue’s talent also did not emerge until he was an adult. He was injured in a car accident five years ago and spontaneously took up painting to fight boredom during his months-long recovery. His family was so encouraging about his artwork, he took some pieces to an art shop in Gibsons, whose owner could not believe he had been painting for such a short time.
“She agreed to sell them, but said, ‘We just won’t tell anyone you’ve only been painting for three months,’” Purjue recalled with a laugh.
Among the pieces at the show is a ten-foot, red cedar, work-in-progress totem pole that represents a traditional Coast Salish story about the eagle, the whale and the salmon.
Georgeson and Purjue are carving the pole as a team. “It’s two nations coming together into one,” Georgeson said. “You have me as Coast Salish and Levi from the Taltahn [First Nation].”
Texem-ay runs at the gallery until Sunday, Aug. 18.