I spent most of my childhood and early adolescence learning First Nations form and design from my father, Xwalacktun, a master carver of the Squamish Nation. I developed my own techniques and artistic methodology after fully understanding the traditional foundation of his work.
I have been given the unique opportunity to approach my art from the different perspectives provided by my complex ethnic background: Euro-Canadian, Coast Salish and Kwakwaka’wakw.
The materials I work in -red and yellow cedar- are deeply rooted in our being as Indigenous people of the Northwest Coast. My work reflects upon cedar's significance to the Squamish and Kwakwaka'wakw people, by exploring material and formline as visual language.
Deconstructing the form and image can allow any viewer to interpret it based on their own experiences and relationship with form. My carvings are abstractions of Northwest formline and Coast Salish, adapted to speak a contemporary language. In the English language, poetry abstracts and alters how words can be used. Because we didn’t have a written language, I abstract form and shape to evoke emotion.
The shapes used in northwest coast artwork have profoundly affected me since I was a child. It feels almost as if I have a visceral connection to the work that gives me a deeper understanding of its significance. What I like about poetry, is that when you read a poem, you don’t get the whole picture in the first read. Poetry can be beautiful and express many thoughts, feelings, and emotions all at the same time. Like music, people can relate to it from their own experience. It can evoke a different response from person to person.
Through the combination of familiar symbolism of West Coast formline, modern media and techniques, my work pushes the boundaries of First Nations cultural traditions and the way the world functions around the confines of these understandings. I want to broaden the place held by Native art and culture in the world of contemporary art.