A new exhibit offers a new perspective on artist Bill Reid’s legacy with rarely seen artworks and new commissions by Northwest Coast artists inspired by his life and practice.
To Speak With a Golden Voice will run from April 22 to Oct. 4 at the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art. It celebrates the milestone centennial birthday of Reid with an exhibition curated by Gwaai Edenshaw, considered to be Reid’s last apprentice.
It’s a group exhibition, which will include rarely seen treasures by Reid from the gallery’s core collection and works from artists Robert Davidson, Beau Dick and Joe David. Two new artworks by contemporary artist and carver Cori Savard (Haida) and singer-songwriter Kinnie Starr (Mohawk) will be created for the exhibition.
“Bill Reid was a master goldsmith, sculptor, community activist, and mentor whose lasting legacy and influence has been cemented by his fusion of Haida traditions with his own modernist aesthetic,” said Edenshaw.
“Just about every Northwest Coast artist working today has a connection or link to Reid. But before he became renowned for his artwork, he was a CBC radio announcer recognized for his memorable voice. In fact, one of Reid’s many Haida names is Kihlguulins, or ‘golden voice.’ His role as a public figure helped him become a pivotal force in the resurgence of Northwest Coast art, introducing the world to its importance and empowering generations of artists.”
Reid was born in Victoria, B.C. to a Haida mother and an American father with Scottish-German roots. He began exploring his Haida heritage at the age of 23, starting a journey of discovery that would last a lifetime.
He studied jewelry making while working at CBC in Toronto, but it wasn’t until a trip to Haida Gwaii in 1954 that his creative trajectory shifted. His time on the island introduced him to the work of his great-great-uncle Charles Edenshaw (no relation to Gwaai Edenshaw), inspiring him to create new works out of his ancestor’s sketches.
Reid became known for making exquisitely detailed pieces, which were eventually translated into larger formats as he moved into monumental carvings. Some of his most iconic works today include Chief of the Undersea World, The Spirit of Haida Gwaii, and Raven and the First Men.
The exhibition will follow four themes, beginning with "Voice", a look at Reid’s career at CBC and his prolific writings, including archival recordings of his thoughts on Northwest Coast art. A commissioned sound-based artwork by Kinnie Starr will incorporate Reid’s voice in an exploration of his Haida name Kihlguulins (“Golden Voice”).
The second thread will be an examination of Reid’s creative journey, or "Process", which was affected by the many colonial policies still in place during the 1950s when he began exploring his heritage.
The third thread will be a study of "Lineage", with works by Reid’s contemporaries and the successors who considered him an influence. Cori Savard will create a new work based on Reid’s deep-rooted impact on Indigenous and Haida art.
The final thread of "Legacy" will provide new insights through the voices and stories of those who personally knew him, including short films featuring interviews with George Rammell, Don Yeomans, Rick Adkins, and Chief James Hart.
The gallery will mark the centennial with a weekend of special events on June 27 and June 28, which will include artist demonstrations, exhibition tours, drop-in activities, and cake. Free admission.
For information about the Bill Reid Gallery go to billreidgallery.ca
The Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art is a public gallery nestled in Vancouver at 639 Hornby St. Since opening in May 2008, the Bill Reid Gallery has remained the only public gallery in Canada devoted to contemporary Indigenous art of the Northwest Coast, and is home to the Simon Fraser University Bill Reid Art Collection.