Thursday, May 22, 2014

Charles Edenshaw

Museums in Ottawa are free on Thursdays after four o'clock. I plan to take full advantage of this throughout my summer here. Today I was fortunate enough to be able to catch the Charles Edenshaw exhibit at the National Gallery before it closes on Sunday.

Having grown up in British Columbia, I am familiar with the art of BC coastal First Nations, but don't know anything about it from an art history. That's why I thought the National Gallery's Charles Edenshaw exhibit was so fantastic, because it had plenty of explanatory texts. (I'm sorry I didn't make it to the exhibit when it was at the Vancouver Art Gallery this past winter as it looks like it included more pieces.) The UBC Museum of Anthropology, which I visited just before leaving for Ottawa, has an extensive collection of BC First Nations artifacts but relatively few interpretive panels so I found it overwhelming. 

I especially liked Charles Edenshaw's Elephant Cane Handle, which the exhibit explained was inspired by circus publicity that Edenshaw saw in a newspaper. Too often I feel that mainstream society sees First Nations as solely historical. What I like about the Elephant Cane is that it is evidence of Edenshaw responding to European influence and thus the dynamism of his (and maybe more broadly Haida and First Nations') art.

(Photo of Charles Edenshaw's Elephant Cane Handle via Vancouver Art Gallery)

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