Libby Leshgold Gallery

A new exhibition at the Libby Leshgold Gallery — Em̓út | Being Home — showcases contemporary artwork from some of British Columbia’s most accomplished contemporary Indigenous artists. The exhibition is a collaboration between the Libby Leshgold Gallery, the BC Achievement Foundation, and guest curators Ray Hartley and Sheila Hall from the Aboriginal Gathering Collective. The exhibition highlights new work from established and mid-career artists and the intergenerational work of members of the same family. The artwork is combined in the gallery with a series of intimate films from the BC Achievement Foundation about the artists and their practice.


The art has a rich and vibrant history, existing as an integral part of Indigenous cultures who have lived for thousands of years on the Northwest Coast. This dynamic art form, rich in tradition and continually innovating in response to cultural circumstances, is recognized worldwide for its distinctive character and artistic excellence.


Contemporary Northwest Coast Indigenous artists are keenly aware of their relationship to their own history. They retain a deep respect for the ancient visual language of their ancestors, and a pre-contact understanding of the art and its importance in their cultures. At the same time they push the boundaries of the art form, referencing and combining traditional and non-traditional ideas with innovative use of materials and motifs. They create art that reinterprets traditional practices, highlights current issues, and addresses historic wrongs.


The exhibition includes artwork in a variety of mediums including painting, printmaking, wood carving, textiles, basket weaving, and sculpture. It showcases the artists' unique interpretations, technical excellence, and mastery of materials, and explores both traditional art and the social, cultural, and political activism of contemporary Northwest Coast art and design.


Indigenous peoples live in all areas of the Northwest Coast, from small villages to large urban centers. They have survived the devastating impact of colonization and residential schools and are now in the process of a new resurgence, thriving in the places in which they live. This exhibition is part of a process of rewriting the historic narratives of governments and institutions and expressing an Indigenous perspective and an Indigenous truth. It is also an expression of Northwest Coast Indigenous artists understanding of Em̓út — of being home.


The BC Achievement Foundation celebrates the spirit of excellence in British Columbia by recognizing the accomplishments of our province’s artists, community leaders, youth, and volunteers. The Fulmer Award in First Nations Art honours excellence in Indigenous art and is presented each year by the BC Achievement Foundation to established, mid-career, and emerging First Nations artists. The films, which are produced in conjunction with the Award, give intimate portraits of the artists at work in their homes and studios.


This exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Ben Davidson — Tlanang nang kingaas (the one who is known far away) — who passed suddenly last August at the age of 44. Ben was a husband, father of five children, son, brother, uncle, nephew, cousin, and friend. He was also an exceptionally talented artist transforming wood, metal, paint, and paper into exquisite creations that were traditional, whimsical, and full of life – just like him. He believed in the importance of sharing Haida culture whether it was dancing at a potlatch – he was a member of the Rainbow Creek Dance Group — or creating extraordinary artwork to reflect traditional beliefs and stories. He always had a good story to tell and was incredibly generous, contributing to his community by donating art, sharing his time, or providing mentorship to others. Ben participated in two previous international exhibitions in Hawaii with the Aboriginal Gathering Collective and several of his artworks are in this exhibition.


Sonny Assu of Liǥwildaʼx̱w of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation, was raised in North Delta, BC, over 250 km away from his ancestral home on Vancouver Island. It wasn't until he was eight years old that he discovered his Liǥwildax̱w/Kwakwaka’wakw heritage. This discovery would be the conceptual focal point that helped launch his unique art practice. Assu, an interdisciplinary artist, has a diverse practice including painting, sculpture, photography, digital art and printmaking. Sonny negotiates Western and Kwakwaka’wakw principles of art making as a means of exploring his family history and the experiences of being an Indigenous person in the colonial state of Canada. He received a BA and the distinguished alumni award from Emily Carr University of Art and Design and the BC Creative Achievement Award. He completed his MFA at Concordia University in Montreal in 2017 and was one of the Laureates of the 2017 Indigenous Art Awards. His work is in the National Gallery of Canada, the Seattle Art Museum, the Vancouver Art Gallery, Museum of Anthropology, the University of Washington, as well as in public and private collections across Canada, the USA, and the UK.


Primrose Adams is a member of the Raven Clan, Haida Nation and one of the finest makers of Northwest Coast cedar and spruce weavings. She creates hats and baskets in the traditional Haida method passed on to her by her mother-in-law, Selina Peratrovich. She is a descendent of the celebrated Haida artist Charles Edenshaw, and the daughter of Florence Edenshaw Davidson. Her daughter, Isabel Rorick, is a master spruce root weaver. Primrose’s son Alfred, also traditionally trained, often paints her baskets and hats. Adams is arguably the finest Northwest Coast cedar and spruce root weaver of her generation. In 2005, she was featured in the Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation 2 exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City, NY. This same year, she was included in Sharon Busby’s Spruce-Root Baskets of the Haida and Tlingit book. In 2008, Primrose was included in the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Raven Travelling: Two Centuries of Haida Art exhibition. Her work can be found in major museums around the world, including The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois.


Dempsey Bob is a Northwest Coast wood carver and sculptor from British Columbia, Canada, who is of Tahltan and Tlingit First Nations descent. He was born in the Tahltan village of Telegraph Creek on the Stikine River and is of the Wolf clan. As a celebrated artist and a dedicated teacher, Dempsey began carving in 1969 and was directed to the Gitanmaax School of Northwest Coast Indian Art in 1972 by Freda Diesing, who was his earliest mentor and teacher. His works are in the collections of the Canadian Museum of Civilization; the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology; the Columbia Museum of Ethnology; the Smithsonian Institution; the National Museum of Ethnology in Japan; Canada House in London, England; Hamburgisches Museum fur Volkerskkunde in Hamburg, Germany; the Centennial Museum in Ketchikan, Alaska, and the Royal British Columbia Museum. Corporate collections include the Vancouver International Airport, the Ridley Coal Terminal in Prince Rupert and the Saxman Tribal House in Saxman, Alaska. In recent years he has been a major contributor to Pacific Rim relations, participating in gatherings in New Zealand, Australia, and Hawaii. In June 2013, Dempsey Bob was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada, “For his dedication to the preservation of Tahltan-Tlingit artistry as a master carver and mentor to a new generation of artists.”


David Boxley is a carver from Metlakatla, Alaska. He was raised by his grandparents and surrounded by the Tsimshian language and traditions. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1974 from Seattle Pacific University. While teaching in Metlakatla, he was inspired by his culture and the ability of art to preserve tradition. He began to study traditional Tsimshian carving and learned the methods of his grandfather's people by researching ethnographic material and carvings from museum collections. In 1986 he made a decision to leave teaching, and devote his energies to an artistic practice. David is a nationally recognized artist exhibiting and demonstrating his practice in the United States and Europe. His decorative and functional art includes bentwood boxes, rattles, masks, prints and panels. He emphasizes traditional Tsimshian style in his work, started traditional Northwest coast dance groups, and organized and hosted Potlatches in Alaska and Washington.


Corey Bulpitt is from the Naikun Raven clan of the Haida Nation. After graduating from Langley Fine Art School, Corey apprenticed for three years with his uncle, Haida artist Christian White. He also worked for his uncle, Haida master carver Jim Hart, at the Museum of Anthropology assisting and carving many totem poles. He completed a pole in New Zealand with Maori master carver Lionel Grant alongside Dempsey Bob (Tahltan/Tlingit), Joe David (Nuu-chah-nulth), and Christian White (Haida). In 2008, Corey's red cedar Butterfly mask was featured in The Gathering, a calendar that highlights prominent First Nations artists working in BC. In 2012, Corey was featured in the travelling exhibition Beat Nation: Art, Hip Hop and Aboriginal Culture curated by the Vancouver Art Gallery. In 2014, his successful solo show AKOS, which highlighted his background as a graffiti artist, was exhibited at the Bill Reid Gallery in Vancouver. In 2017, Corey received a BC Creative Achievement Award for Aboriginal Art.


Brenda Crabtree was born in Spuzzum, BC and has both Nlaka'pamux and Stó:lō ancestry. As the First Nations Director at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design she holds a BA and MA in Cultural Anthropology. Her masterful art practice as a weaver focuses on the traditional materials of inner cedar bark, cedar roots, and spruce roots. Her play on language takes this traditional practice to the contemporary arena. As a generous teacher she has been instrumental in assisting with the Emily Carr University of Art and Design First Nations Awareness Day, developing scholarship programs, developing workshops in First Nations Studio Art, Design and Technology, and supporting Indigenous artists through mentorships. In 2017 the BC Achievement Foundation established an emerging artist award in Brenda Crabtree’s honour in recognition of her remarkable contributions to BC’s First Nations Art community. Brenda’s work for the Em̓út | Being Home exhibition continues to focus on Indigenous material based production with text as an ongoing theme of her practice, and the politics of being female and being heard.


Robert Davidson is one of Canada's most important contemporary artists. He has been immensely influential in the direction that modern Northwest Coast art has developed and over the last five decades he has set a standard that many artists in this field have sought to emulate. He is a master in every medium, including wood, gold, silver, argillite, silkscreen and bronze.


Davidson belongs to the Eagle clan and his Haida name is Guud San Glans, Eagle of the Dawn. Born in Hydaburg, Alaska, in 1946, he grew up in Old Massett, Haida Gwaii. At the early age of 13, he received training as an argillite and wood carver from his father, Claude Davidson, and grandfather, Robert Davidson Sr. Davidson’s great grandfather, Charles Edenshaw, was a renowned turn-of-the-century Haida artist. Much of Davidson’s cultural knowledge of Haida traditions was passed down to him by his paternal grandmother Florence Davidson, who had been raised in the old Haida ways.


Davidson has always taken seriously his trusteeship of his Haida knowledge and much of the focus of his life has been about reclaiming and exploring Haida art, song and story. He founded the Rainbow Creek Dancers along with his brother, Reg Davidson, and has performed at ceremonies and potlatches around the world. In 1995 he received the National Aboriginal Achievement Award for his contribution to First Nations art and culture. He holds numerous honourary degrees. He has received the Order of British Columbia, and in 1996 was awarded the prestigious Order of Canada. He received both the Governor General’s Award for Visual Arts and the Audain Prize for Lifetime Achievement Award in the Visual Arts in 2010.


Ben Davidson, whose Haida name is tlajang nang kingaasmeaning “the one who is known far away,” is the son of internationally renowned Haida artist, Robert Davidson. Ben, born in 1976 in Mission BC, was immersed in the Haida art form from a very early age. He began carving at the age of sixteen and completed a four-year apprenticeship with his father. He has also worked with Reg Davidson and John Livingston.


Ben Davidson draws upon his traditional knowledge of Haida design to create innovative and unique contemporary pieces. Although he specializes in sculpture, Ben also works with two-dimensional designs and his repertoire includes jewellery and engraving.


As a member of the traditional Haida dance group, the Rainbow Creek Dancers, his dedication to the revival of Haida culture moves beyond the realm of art. Ben is one of the original members of this group and this extensive experience enables him to continually explore the symbiotic relationship between the ceremonial and contemporary roles of Haida art. Ben demonstrates a strong commitment to the future of Haida art by volunteering his time to work with younger artists.


Aggie Davis is one of Florence Edenshaw Davidson's daughters. Florence was an elder and the daughter of Haida Chief and artist Charles Edenshaw. Aggie currently lives in old Massett and learned the history and making of the button blanket from her mother. After Florence passed in 1993, Robert Davidson and Aggie continued to collaborate creatively consulting on patterns and placement. Robert, Aggie’s nephew, is challenged to do a good design, and Aggie’s focus is on making the crests as strong as possible.


“Working on a blanket is like sculpting on cloth. My scissors being like the chisel and hammer to a sculptor defining every line with a precise cut. If the cut is not clean you affect the whole design.” Florence Edenshaw Davidson


Shawn Hunt — “My father is Heiltsuk, from Waglisla [Bella Bella on the BC North Coast] and my mother is of Scottish descent from Langham, Saskatchewan,” says Hunt. “Besides both these two places being very small, they couldn’t be more different. So, my upbringing is from two contrasting cultures, two verydifferent worlds. I always felt like a part of me belonged to both cultures, while another part of me didn’t feel like I fully belonged to either. If my work seems to be an expression of contrast, then it is probably because I myself am a contrast at my very core.”


In 1994, at age 19, Hunt began carving and started to apprentice with his father, Heiltsuk artist Bradley Hunt. The next four years were spent getting to know his tools and his hands, and sculpting hundreds of pieces of art; masks, totem poles, and jewellery. Hunt earned a diploma from Capilano College and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from University of British Columbia, where he majored in sculpture and drawing.


Hunt’s work stands out for the integration of this traditional First Nations style into modern pop culture references. This adds reliability to his unique style and makes the viewer look, and think, more deeply. Neo-formline is a term to describe a style of Northwest Coast art where the artist was pushing the boundaries of the formline style; trying to use formline in new and sometimes unconventional ways. This art form is a very old one, it goes back to the beginning. It is a continuum. Hunt recently collaborated with Microsoft's creation studio, the Garage. Hunt, moving away from his traditional hand-carved surfaces in this instance, utilized everything from 3-D printing to robotics and Microsoft's HoloLens, creating what's being described as an "experiential sculpture piece that engages with mixed reality".


Lena Jumbo is a member of the Ahousaht tribe of the Nuu-chah-nulth Nation. Lena has been weaving baskets for most of her life on the west coast of Vancouver Island. She is fluent in the Nuu-chah-nulth language and generously shares her knowledge with the younger generation. She is very active in keeping the culture alive by offering her knowledge with those who ask.


Isabel Rorick was born in Old Masset, Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands in British Columbia), into the Raven moiety Yahgu’7laanaas. Her Haida name, S’it kwuns, means Red Moon, which was a name held by her maternal great-grandmother Isabella Edenshaw. She comes from a long line of weavers, including her mother, Primrose Adams, her aunt Delores Churchill, and cousins April and Holly Churchill. Isabel has worked hard with other women to have weaving considered a fine art form, beyond the idea of craft. Her work has been included in many exhibitions showcasing new directions in Northwest Coast art, including Topographies: Recent Aspects of British Columbia Art at the Vancouver Art Gallery and Native Visions at the Seattle Art Museum. She has pieces in the British Museum (London), Vancouver Art Gallery, Royal British Columbia Museum (Victoria), Canadian Museum of Civilization (Hull, Quebec), Burke Museum (Seattle), New York Historical Association (Cooperstown), National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian Institution (Washington, D.C.) and Heard Museum (Phoenix).


Evelyn Vanderhoop is a Pacific Northwest Coast textile weaver, researcher and teacher from the Haida Nation located in Masset, British Columbia. She specializes in weaving the chief’s robe of the Haida people. Raven’s Tail (northern geometric weaving) and the Naaxiin (Chilkat), two techniques she teaches and weaves. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Western Washington University and has had successful parallel careers as a weaver and watercolour artist. She studied watercolour painting in Europe, and one of her paintings was chosen by the United States Postal Service for a stamp to commemorate Native American dance. She has also been chosen as an artist in residence at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. She comes from a long line of Haida weavers.


Xwalacktun, born Rick Harry, is a Squamish Nation artist whose works are recognized internationally. He is an accomplished artist in wood, paper, stone, glass and metals. He carries with him the rich ancestries of his father’s Squamish Nation and mother’s Kwakwakw'wakw Nation of the Coast Salish Clans. His father, Pekultn, carried a hereditary Chieftainship from Seymour Creek in North Vancouver. Healing, growth and raising an awareness of the environment are central themes in his work. By focusing on how the traditional stories relate to his own life, he suggests how to use this ancient knowledge to help heal ourselves and our community. His positive energy as a teacher is returned to him by young learners. These cycles of energy flowing outward and returning feed Xwalacktun’s spirit. “It is by giving that we receive.” He has received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal and the prestigious honour of the Order of British Columbia (O.B.C.) for his many contributions to various communities. He is also a recipient of the “FANS” Honour Award from the North Vancouver Arts Council which acknowledged his commitments both locally and globally.


Image: Ben Davidson, Almost There. Silkscreen serigraph on rag paper





Canada Council for the Arts



Video from The BC Achievement Foundation: Fulmer Award in First Nations Art, featuring interviews with artists in this exhibition:

0:00 - Primrose Adams
4:25 - Sonny Assu
9:30 - Dempsey Bob
12:50 - Cory Bulpitt
16:55 - Ben Davidson
21:08 - Robert Davidson
24:10 - Shawn Hunt
29:25 - Isabel Rorick
33:03 - Evelyn Vanderhoop
36:55 - Xwalacktun