Coast Salish (Musqueam), born 1952
Susan Point grew up on the Musqueam First Nation Reserve, at the mouth of the Fraser River in what is now Vancouver, British Columbia. She began her career as an artist in the early 1980’s, starting with metalwork and printmaking, using traditional Coast Salish design as a starting-point. She now works with an array of materials, including wood, stone, glass, bronze, copper, silver, and bone. She has developed a highly distinctive style and color palette while continuing to draw inspiration from Coast Salish motifs. Numerous works take their form from tools such as mat creasers and spindle whorls.
In the 1990’s, Susan began creating large-scale sculptures and has received more than thirty-five commissions for public art pieces. She is an Officer of the Order of Canada and has received an Indspire Achievement Award, a YWCA Woman of Distinction Award, a BC Creative Achievement Award, and a Civic Merit Award from the City of Vancouver. She holds honorary doctorates from the University of Victoria, Simon Fraser University, the University of British Columbia, and the Emily Carr University of Art + Design. Her work has been exhibited in over sixty group exhibitions and a dozen solo shows, including Susan Point: Spindle Whorl at the Vancouver Art Gallery, February-May, 2017.
Friday Harbor’s waterfront became home to Susan Point’s Interaction, a cedar house-post sculpture, in 2004. The sculpture symbolizes long-overdue recognition of San Juan Island’s Coast Salish heritage as well as the need for current and future residents of these islands to honor and preserve the natural environment.
Susan describes her role as an artist in these words: “The task of my generation is to remember all that was taught, and pass that knowledge and wisdom on to our children.” Her work ensures the perpetuation of key elements of her Coast Salish heritage while giving expression to her innovative and contemporary artistic vision.
Raven and the First People
After the great flood that covered the earth for a long time had receded, Raven had a hankering to go out and create some new mischief. Not long before, he had stolen the light from the old man; now he could see everything, but still felt restless.
Flying along the shore, Raven kept alert for intriguing sights and sounds, cawing as he went. A faint cry caught his ear, and he spied a white object half-concealed in the sand. Swooping down to investigate, he saw a giant clamshell filled with tiny creatures, terrified by his huge dark shadow. Shifting to his most mellifluous crooning voice, he gradually coaxed the little beings to emerge. They walked on two legs like Raven, but were featherless and had only small sticks instead of wings. Their noses were much flatter than his shiny, sharp beak, and they had long black hair on the tops of their heads. These were the first Haida people.
NOTE: Raven myths based on Bill Reid and Robert Bringhurst, The Raven Steals the Light (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996, 19-24; 33-37).