Sealaska Heritage Institute will host a public viewing of a stunning bronze sculpture by internationally acclaimed Haida artist Robert Davidson at the Walter Soboleff Building tonight for First Friday.
Called Crab of the Woods (Frog), or Hlk’iian q’uusdanin in the Haida language, Xaad Kíl, the sculpture is based on a mask Davidson carved in 1989 out of red cedar that is used by his dance group, Rainbow Creek Dancers. The Frog is a crest of the Eagle Clan.
Davidson is widely acknowledged as one of the most accomplished Northwest Coast artists of his time and is a leading figure in the renaissance of Haida art and culture. Crab of the Woods is a model of the artistic evolution within the Northwest Coast art tradition and an important addition to SHI’s collections, said SHI President Rosita Worl.
“This spectacular bronze exemplifies extremely high quality formline design in an unconventional medium,” Worl said. “It will serve as an inspiration for emerging Northwest Coast artists, stimulating better work and encouraging creative growth. We are thrilled to have it.”
The process of casting a bronze sculpture involves multiple steps in which alternating negative and positive impressions are made. To create Crab of the Woods, a mold was made from Davidson’s cedar mask, and then a plaster cast was taken from the mold and reworked in preparation for the bronze casting process, carried out by Trio Bronze in Langley, B.C. The bronze in SHI’s collection is an artist proof and was created in 2014.
As part of its ethnographic collection policy, SHI acquires objects that represent the culture and heritage of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian peoples. With its high exhibition values, Davidson’s Crab of the Woods meets one of SHI’s priority collecting objectives to share its collections with the public through educational displays, exhibits and research.
Robert Davidson (left) with Mick Beasley at SHI’s roundtable discussion in 2017.
Davidson’s work with SHI includes participation in its lecture series and exhibits, including the current exhibit, Alaska Native Masks: Art & Ceremony. He also took part in a recent roundtable discussion held in conjunction with the masks exhibit, an all-day event that brought together artists from around the state.
His work is prominently represented on the front of the Walter Soboleff Building in the form of two huge red metal panels.
Davidson was born in Hydaburg, Alaska, and raised in Massett, Haida Gwaii, and is the great-grandson of famed Haida artist Charles Edenshaw. While he was growing up, Haida art had virtually disappeared from view in Massett, but his father, Claude Davidson, and grandfather, Robert Davison, Sr., encouraged him to carry on the family tradition.
Photo from Robert Davidson’s lecture “Discovering Haida Art: A Personal Journey” at SHI in 2015. Video: http://bit.ly/2gwNXMC
When he was 22 he raised the first totem pole in Massett in nearly 90 years. He went on to apprentice with Bill Reid and attend the Vancouver School of Art. His wide-ranging works include totem poles, paintings, serigraphs, sculptures, masks, and jewelry. His work is represented in collections including the National Gallery of Canada and the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
Crab of the Woods is 17 inches high by 14 inches wide. It will be on display in the Walter Soboleff building Lobby from 4:30 to 8 pm Friday, Sept. 1.