August 20, 2016
The Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art is a beautiful small gallery with many pieces on display by the Vancouver artist Bill Reid. There were also many beautiful art pieces by other “First Nations” artists. Visitors to Vancouver who want to see native artwork in a more intimate setting than a larger art museum will enjoy spending an hour here. It is located at 639 Hornby Street, in downtown Vancouver, and is only a couple of blocks south of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver’s largest art museum.
Bill Reid (1920-1998) was a master artist, comfortable in media as diverse as copper, silver, gold, wire, wood, and onyx. He was also a writer, broadcaster, and community activist.
Reid was ½ Haida (on his mother’s side) and half Scottish and German (on his father’s side). His mother was a member of the Raven clan from T’aanuu with the wolf as one of the family crests. Reid grew up not knowing much about his Haida roots. His mother had been ostracized by the tribe at least in part for marrying a white man.
Reid began exploring his Haida roots at the age of 23, but worked as a radio broadcaster for a decade until he decided to become a full-time artist. He blended native Haida themes with his own modernist aesthetic, creating exquisite works of art both large and small.
“It is the nature of an empty container that it holds nothing less than the potential of everything.”
Notice the symmetry of the images in this decorated box. The animals represented are divided into small parts and rearranged, so that a head may be separated from a body, tail or limbs.
Jewelry pieces by Bill Reid:
Stopping in at the gift shop after seeing the exhibit, I purchased a few small things to use as gifts or party favors. Although the art pieces for sale were beautiful, I contented myself with taking pictures of some of them!
“I have lived intimately with the strange and beautiful beasts and heroes of Haida mythology and learned to know them as part of myself.” – Bill Reid, 1967