Unframed size 20 x 14 in.
Framed size 25 1/2 x 20in.
Artist’s Comments (Artist’s Comments are intended solely for those viewers who would appreciate more information on the motivations and processes involved in each painting. They are not intended to direct how anyone might respond to or interpret my work.)
About “Coastal Settlement and “Long Houses”
In 1997 I went to spend a summer with the Haida Indians on Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) in B.C. I did these pieces before I went: they were based on readings of George F. MacDonald about Haida art and culture.
One particular legend was of interest to me. MacDonald relates how in the Haida culture there were four worlds: the Sky World, the Forest World, the Haida World (the narrow strip of land where they assembled their long houses near the shore), and the Underworld (the sea). A line of energy connected these four worlds, and it ran through the chief’s house. Also a line of energy connected each of their houses on the shore. The two lines crossed at the hearth of the chief. So whenever an important meeting was held, decisions were made at the intersection of the energy of the tribe with the energy of the universe. I couldn't help but think how powerful this concept is in comparison to how and where our culture holds its meetings!
By using an aerial view of the houses all at the shore line, I have tried to show one or both of the lines of energy in each of the pieces, “Coastal Settlement”, “Long Houses”, and “Tribal Habitation”. Also included in each painting are some or all of the four “Worlds”.
Haida society was largely destroyed by white man’s ignorance and diseases. One hundred and fifty years ago the Haida lived in many small coastal villages, scattered throughout the islands. In the late 1800’s these villages had to be vacated, since about 90% of the population had died in a few short decades. (Could you imagine the devastation if 90% of our population died suddenly? It is conceivable that whole classes of skilled workers would be eradicated!)
In the summer of 1997 I walked through many of the deserted, isolated villages; only indentations in the ground show where the long houses were. Some of the massive beams used to build them lie rotting on the ground, (they were masters of post and beam construction). A few mortuary poles (where they placed their dead) or totem poles still stand, but most have joined the house timbers rotting on the ground.
It would be easy to assume that the Haida are depressed at the gradual rotting away of their past, but my readings and conversations with tribal members paint quite a different picture. They believe that these objects came from the ground originally, and it is quite normal for them to return to the ground. No efforts are made to preserve wood or re-erect poles. It is the white man who attempts to preserve the rotting wood, often with disastrous results.
The painting shows how the villages exist for most of us in archeologists maps. The squares represent the houses.