Our first set of six gallery talks, entitled "A Primer in Seeing and Knowing: An Introduction to Northwest Coast First Nations Art", was a fantastic success.  Thank you to Carol Sheehan for a very inspiring, informative and fun series and thank you to all 29 participants that were a wonderful and engaged audience. All spaces were quickly sold-out, and in the coming months, we are hoping to do more of these gallery talks. 

Each one of Carol’s talks focused on one particular area of Northwest Coast art and culture. The participants came to the gallery once a week and received a workbook as well as hand-outs for each session. Each talk was an hour and a half long, and participants were encouraged to bring in their own examples of Northwest Coast First Nations art and stories to share with the group. 

The first talk, “Spirit-Mind. Eye-Hand”, focused on the design elements found in Northwest Coast Formline Design. Carol talked about Formline as well as Formspace, about Ovoids, T-shapes, U-Forms, S-Forms, Trigons, Crescents, Eyeforms, Salmon-Trout Heads, as well as some of the different stylistic signatures. 

The second talk was called “Visual Literacy: What do I see?” In this presentation, Carol explored the shapes and forms that indicate certain anatomical features as well as the following 4 principle conventions;

  • Personification
  • Split representation,
  • Design fits the shape of an object
  • X-ray vision

With the help of many stunning old and new carvings and paintings, she explained how to recognize the individual design elements and gave examples, on how to understand the whole story / design.

In the third, fourth and fifth talks, Carol concentrated on the Spirits of the Forest, Spirits of the Sky and Spirits of the Sea. Here we dove into the stories and significances of many crests and spirits. The following are some but not all of the spirits we covered: Bear, Wolf, Humans, the Wild man of the Woods, the Wild Woman of the Woods, Raven, Hummingbird, Eagle, Thunderbird, Sun, Moon, the Lightning Snake, Whale and Orca, Shark, Dogfish and Salmon, Seal and Otter, Sea-Eagle, as well as Octopus. 

In the sixth and last gallery talk, “Betwixt and Between: Spirits of Power; Spirits of Wealth”, Carol explained the concept of Transformation, focusing on Salmon as a natural example of transformation, she steered us through the monumental creatures of the deep seas and deep forests. The following are some of the spirits we focused on: Land Otter, Googit, Komokwa or the King of the Undersea World, Sea Monsters, Sisuitl or Sea Serpent, Pugwis, Sea Grizzly or Sea Bear as well as Sea Wolf or Wasgo.

The following is some feedback from our participants:

  • “I thoroughly enjoyed the series and found it very informative. Carol gave us more details and information than I expected.”
  • “It was just the right combination of talk and pictures to clarify the art and the stories behind the various masks.”
  • “Having no previous knowledge, it has given me a good foundation to build upon by reading, researching and exploring.”
  • “Carol is so passionate and knowledgeable about NW Coast First Nations Art....you chose the perfect person for your first gallery talk.”
  • “Carole Sheehan is an incredibly engaging, knowledgeable and passionate speaker. I appreciated the personal anecdotes and stories she shared and the way in which she put the class at ease.” 

We look forward to seeing you at our next Gallery talk!