It has arrived!
The piece of art I bought in Victoria has arrived. As you can see, the gallery did a really nice job of making sure it arrived intact. It is not often I walk into the UPS Store I use to pick up a package and have one of the clerks compliment me on the quality of a delivery.
I felt for this piece shipping was the most sensible thing, given it’s somewhat fragile. Normally, I don’t have a problem sticking it in the car and driving it home, but I really didn’t want to risk it. You do have to declare it in customs, but because it’s First Nations art, there are no taxes.
This is my first significant Northwest First Nations purchase in about a decade. Laurie and I have done some buying of Inuit art along the way, but while I can check out art from a number of galleries online these days (not possible when I started this), I still prefer to see it in person and talk to the gallery people when I can. Sometimes a piece that looks great in photos has something subtle about it you don’t like in person. Besides, I was basically out of wall space, and it wasn’t until this last year that we redid the living room and I decided to re-organize the art and take down the low quality pieces like the posters in favor of only showing the carved art and the prints. And when I built out my new home office, I created some new shelf space I could use for the right piece.
What could possibly be inside that crate?
Well, of course. Lots and lots of bubble wrap.
The Gallery Dance
There is this thing I call the Gallery Dance, which happens when I walk into an art gallery that doesn’t know me. The gallery staff only knows someone just walked in the door; in my case, since I’d been walking around Victoria and it was massively humid, I was sweating a lot and in casual clothes, so I certainly didn’t look like a serious prospect.
When I walked into the gallery, the owner was talking to someone. It was obvious right away it was an artist, and he had a couple of pieces on a counter that they were chatting about, probably about whether to buy. My entry immediately stopped that conversation. Since I had no idea whether or not there was anything in the gallery I was interested in and I didn’t want to waste the owner’s time until I did, I said a quick good morning and walked into a far corner to go study a random piece of art. This gave them permission to go back to the conversation, which they did.
Alcheringa’s primary exhibition was a series of carving shaped like surfboards. Interesting and some of them were quite good but definitely not what I was looking for. I did quickly notice they had a number of pieces of glasswork on the wall.
I’ve had my eye on a glass piece for a while. Susan Point, a Coast Salish artist, is one of the innovators who really started doing interesting work with glass but it’s become used by a number of artists in various ways. There were some nice large pieces on the wall that caught my eye (none of them were by Point), and so I decided to take a closer look.
So I walked up to the counter, waited for them to pause, pointed at one of the pieces on the wall and asked if that was a Susan Point piece. This did a couple of things in the Dance. One, it let me engage with the owner, and by referencing the name of an artist, I’m letting them know I am not a random person off the cruise ship who stumbled into the store, but a collector. I knew the work wasn’t by Point, but wasn’t sure who it was by, so by identifying it like that I give him the ability to correct me and explain the work to me but also make it clear I had some idea what I was looking at — I’m no longer a sweaty random lookie-loo.
As he is explaining the piece I asked about — it was a large, round piece at least 2.5 feet side by side — I’m realizing both that I really like it, and that I have no place I could possibly hang it that would do it justice. Looking around, though, I saw 3-4 other pieces I liked as well.
I immediately fell in love with a bronze casting of an eagle head, absolutely stunning, about 6′ tall. It turned out to be an estate piece and it had just sold to someone in England, which was good for me, because there was no was I could afford it and I might just have tried anyway.
Sitting near it, though, was another glass work that was designed to sit on a shelf, not be wall hung, and it was gorgeous. There was a second, similar piece next the counter as well.
So I shift the discussion to that piece. Turned out it was by Joe Wilson, a Coast Salish artist that I’ve never bought a piece from, but which I’ve kept an eye on and come close to buying before.
The work at first glance seems simple, a piece of glass plate with a design etched into it, but it’s not really. The design is sandblasted in, and the depth of the etching is significant. Often with works like this it’s little more than surface edging, but this goes in more like a sixteenth of an inch. The technique to do that and keep clean edge detail with a complicated pattern is pretty painstaking. I’m impressed.
I also know exactly where to put it. It quickly boils down to which of the two pieces I want. Part of me wanted to buy both, but the adult-me said no. I ended up with this one, which is a wolf design (the other was an aquatic creature). This is right in line with my collection, where I buy a lot of bird designs for myself, and Laurie has a fondness for the wolf designs.
That picture isn’t a great one, but it’ll do for now; I have a plan to do new photos of all my art and show it off, so I didn’t do a clean background for it for this.
Here is where it now lives, here in my office. I had to move my loon carving to make room for it, but don’t worry, it’s on its own shelf now where it’ll be easier to see, since the best parts of it were hard to appreciate when staring up at it.
The artist that was in the gallery at the time was Dylan Thomas, a younger artist, also Coast Salish. I wasn’t familiar with his work but in doing some quick research I’m impressed, and he seemed a nice man that I talked to a little bit. He was showing off some stone carving work, similar to the Argillite carving you see on the coast but with a different material that shows off a lot more contrast in the carved areas. Count me intrigued.
When he realized we were now talking about a purchase, he went off and made himself busy and got out of the way. I noticed that and appreciated it. I’m definitely taking a deeper look into his work. It has a very geometric feel to it and uses many traditional forms but in modern forms. He seems to work in many different materials, paints, carves and jewelry, but I really have to research that carving stone further…
I’m not one to dither on a purchase, so I made the choice, handed off the credit card, and wished them a good day, and I was back out of the gallery in about 20 minutes or so. That’s kind of my thinking: either it’s a buyable piece or its not, and then it’s a question of display location and affordability.
This one fills what I felt was a gap in my collection well, and now that I’ve got it at home and have studied it again, I’m really thrilled at having gotten my hands on it. Glass works like this can be problematic online, it’s one of those types of art I feel I need to see in person. Happy it all lined up this trip.
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