James Harry

In some ways, this piece is inspired by my father Xwalaktun’s carvings and how the thunderbird and bear are relational to his work.  I created the thunderbird and bear as the centre of  my piece with an angled perspective, as if you are looking up at them. This piece is about my identity and how I have been affected by the people in my life and who I look up to.
Closer to the ground, the piece becomes more obscure and abstract; a spirit representation. These abstractions are influenced by my lifelong interest in formline and Coast Salish artwork, as well as observation of organic landscapes and ecosystems. Although we never had a written language I view carving these abstractions as if writing poetry; obscuring and abstracting visual language and ideas to alter and create a different meaning.

I spent most of my childhood and early adolescence learning First Nations form and design from my father, Xwalacktun, a master carver of the Squamish Nation. I developed my own techniques and artistic methodology after fully understanding the traditional foundation of his work. Materials I turn to are metal, red and yellow cedar, lighting, paint, fabrics and found objects to create installations, sculptures, paintings, and film.
 
I have been given the unique opportunity to approach my art from the different perspectives provided by my complex ethnic background: Euro-Canadian, Coast Salish and Kwakwaka‘wakw, ethically I am responsible for representing the intrinsic values of my First Nations culture. My goal is to continually challenge non-Native and Native definitions and assumptions of what is traditional, spiritual and environmentally ethical. Drawing influence from urban and rural, and by Native and non-Native cultures. I explore concepts of community and identity, reflecting in the study of cultural theory. Through the combination of familiar symbolism of West Coast form-line, modern media and techniques, my work pushes the boundaries of First Nations cultural traditions and the way the world functions around the confines of these understandings. I want to broaden the place held by Native art and culture in the world of contemporary art.

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