WILLIAM (BILL) RONALD REID (Canadian 1920-1998)
BEAR MOTHER & DOGFISH WOMAN FROM
THE SPIRIT OF HAIDA GWAII
pair of cast bronze sculptures, edition 3/9
bears signature, factory stamp and edition "© Bill Reid 1986-91 III/IX TX"
Size: Dogfish Woman 33 1/2" x 30 5/16" x 38 1/6", Bear Mother 27 1/2" x 23 1/2" x 34 1/4"
Buschlen Mowatt Gallery 1993-1996
National Museum of Singapore
Vancouver International Sculpture Biennale 2005-2007
Literature: Illustrated in Bill Reid Collected by Martine Reid, published by Douglas & McIntyre, 2016, illustrated page 141
The monumental sculpture “The Spirit of Haida Gwaii - The Black Canoe” was commissioned in 1986 by architect Arthur Erickson for the entrance court of the new Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C. The bronze was cast at the Tallix Foundry in Beacon, New York under the supervision of its president, Dick Pollich. The bronze was patinated in black, representing black argillite. 13 mythological figures from Haida legends were depicted in sitting in the canoe including Bear Father, Bear Mother, their twin cubs, Dogfish Woman, Raven, Wolf, Eagle, Frog, Beaver, Mouse Woman, Chief and the Ancient Reluctant Conscript who paddles. The bronze was installed at the Canadian Embassy in 1991. A second version “The Spirit of Haida Gwaii - The Jade Canoe” was cast in 1993 and installed in the International Terminal of the Vancouver International Airport. The original plaster is on permanent display at the Canadian Museum of History. Upon completion, Bill Reid decided to isolate and cast separately two of the thirteen mythological characters in the canoe, “Bear Mother” and “Dogfish Woman”, both in their human form, as stand-alone sculptures in bronze. This edition of 9 sculptures were cast at the Tallix Foundry and finished in three patinas: black representing argillite (edition 1-3), green representing jade (edition 4-6) and bronze (edition 7-9).
Only the three bronzes patinated in black (edition 1-3) were cast during Bill Reid’s lifetime.
William (Bill) Ronald Reid (Canadian, 1920-1998) "Bear Mother & Dogfish Woman"
"The greatest of all the sagas of the Northwest Coast people is the tragic, noble tale of Bear Mother and the founding of the Bear family of the Raven side of the clan grouping of the Haida." - Bill Reid.
The well-known Haida legend involves transformation and describes a time when bears walked in harmony with humans, emphasizing the importance of honouring and respecting animals. The spoiled Princess Peesunt, while picking huckleberries, chatted and laughed instead of singing to warn the bears of her presence. Watching from the woods the bears thought she was mocking them, and when Peesunt slipped on bear droppings and berated the bears for their natural biological functions, they took exception. Wearing bear robes the bear Prince and his companion, who resembled Peesunt’s brothers, offered to help her with her spilled berries and escort her out of the forest, but instead lured her up the mountain to the bear den where she was imprisoned. Peesunt befriended a wise mouse-woman who advised her to fool the bears by leaving her copper bracelet in the place of her droppings. This impressed the Prince who she married, producing twin bear cubs who inherited a mix of human and bear features. Peesunt’s brothers had not given up their search for her, and she encountered them at the bottom of a rock slide, sending a snowball down the hill to make them aware of her presence. The brothers, seeking revenge, tracked down the bear Prince who realized that only through his sacrifice could the bear clan be established among the humans. He was permitted to perform his death dance before the ceremonial duel, thus allowing Peesunt and the twins, now transformed into their human form, return to the village. The boys became successful hunters, behaving like bears part of the time and guiding their uncles to the dens in the mountains. The hunters became prosperous and adopted the bear as their Raven clan crest. Bear Mother is depicted here with a labret, a sign of Haida aristocracy, in her lower lip.
Bill Reid often rendered the Dogfish Woman, the powerful supernatural Haida mythological shaman or medicine woman who could transform from a dogfish to a woman and back again. Ancestors and supernatural beings are often described as having attributes of at least two entities, thus allowing them to transcend typical limitations of one species. The story of the Dogfish Woman has been partially lost, but was recorded by the anthropologist Franz Boas: “A woman went travelling with her husband. She used to make fun of the dogfish. They went to visit a small rock in the sea. When they were out there, the dogfish, whose home the rock was, came and took the woman down into the sea. There she discovered that the dogfish were really people. They had taken off their dogfish blankets. After she had stayed in the house for some time, fins began to grow upon her arms, her legs, and her back. Her husband was searching for her everywhere, but he was not able to find her. After a number of years, he found her. Her face had remained unchanged; but fins had grown on her arms, on her legs, on her back, and on her head. She never returned. Ever since that time her family have used the dogfish crest, and their house is called the Dogfish House.” Dogfish Woman is depicted here with her snout as a crown and a labret in her lower lip.
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