‘namaxsala – A Sculpture by Mary Anne Barkhouse

We’re very excited to
welcome Mary Anne Barkhouse’s new sculptural
commission ‘namaxsala. It’s a very important
work that recognizes Mary Anne’s international
stature as a sculptor. It tells a story that relates not only
to the Museum, but to her family history and some of the objects
that are in our collection. The story that inspired
this particular piece of work was one that my grandfather
told me many years ago. And it concerned the time that he
helped a wolf get across a particularly treacherous stretch of water
out on the Northwest coast somewhere between the mainland
and Vancouver Island. Further to that, I
started thinking about what does it take for
someone to help a wolf? And not only help a wolf,
but let it get into a boat with them and take it to shore.
That’s a huge leap of faith! So I thought it took a lot of
independent thought and it took a lot of compassion for other living things. The work relates to the Museum’s
permanent collection of historical objects from her family,
from the Kwagiulth community. It also really demonstrates Mary Anne’s
mastery of a variety of materials and how beautifully they work
together aesthetically. I went back to some
traditional materials: the copper for example has a huge cultural
significance for the Kwagiulth people. It’s a symbol of wealth, of power.
And I think also because of its conductive nature, there’s a
continuity issue with that as well. On top of which I just love the life
cycle that both copper and bronze have. Because they do have a life,
that they change over time. And I think that’s a really important
part to my art practice now as far as the narrative that I want to develop
with these works as time progresses. A lot of artists, when they
get a piece cast at a foundry, have the foundry do the patina.
For me, that would be, say, like that’s the most fun part.
I do that myself. It is magic. You have to get into the
Zen moment, because it’s a very complicated process, but
something that is so rewarding. ‘namaxsala, Mary Anne Barkhouse’s
sculpture, enters the collection after a long history by the Museum of
collecting and actually commissioning contemporary Aboriginal art over
the past forty or fifty years. When I saw this wolf in a boat, I
thought: “How unique! I’d love to learn more about it. And when you’ve been
given an opportunity to give to something so worthwhile, we
had no choice but to say yes.” This is actually the very first major piece
that we have donated outside of Manitoba. So it had that very original appeal,
mostly because it was unbelievable and today the unbelievable became a reality.
And I think it’s one of the most meaningful pieces of art
that I have ever seen. I love it!

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