I received vessel 76 the day before Valentine’s day at my gallery in Vancouver, British Columbia. The piece came from two good friends, Eric and Gwen, who made the occasion a special one by driving from Seattle to Vancouver. In its wooden, box swathed in cloth, it was a beautiful thing to unwrap and the process of doing so was something that struck me. That moment of receiving and unveiling is such a powerful one. It’s a miniature event; there are witnesses, reactions, implications, expectations and excitements that all play out in a few minutes (several minutes because it was so well wrapped). My gallery, the Douglas Reynolds Gallery features modern and contemporary Northwest Coast art by First Nations artists living up and down the Northwest Coast. An ancient tradition that continues to be practiced today is the Potlatch. Although many different kinds of events are referred to by this name, at the centre of them all is feasting and the bestowal of gifts by a host family to their invited guests. On the Northwest Coast, no important social event can take place without a potlatch, and no claim can be made to name, rank, or hereditary privilege without this important ceremonial event. Guests, in accepting potlatch gifts are acting as witnesses who establish the host’s claims. In this tradition, giving an item carries with it many meanings, and the process of receiving this vessel made me think of the importance of that experience and how that moment of receiving is so significant. I am very honoured that Gwen and Eric decided to pass the piece on to me.
One moment that happened while the piece was being opened is that a very well known Northwest Coast artist came into the gallery and admired the bowl. As a wood carver however, he was even more interested in the wood box it came in. To commemorate this I decided to share a few photos of the vessel with a bentwood box. This is also a nod to the potlatch tradition. Bentwood boxes were, and continue to be important items of trade. Elaborately decorated boxes that held precious items were often gifts at a potlatch. We photographed the piece in a beautifully carved and inlaid box by Joshua Prescott-Shaw and have also included some images of Vessel 76 around the gallery.
Vessel 76 in the gallery
And another shot
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