1 year ago




ARTIST FEATURE LAURIE MCNEILL APRIL WHITE Sgaana Jaad Killer Whale Woman Meet April White, the soft-spoken Pacific Northwest artist who painted the original piece gracing our front cover this month. Titled TLUU JAAD in the language of the Haida, this painting is attached to an epic story within a story about the journey of the Canoe Woman sitting proudly at the prow of the canoe. “This painting represents the journey of every woman,” April says in a humble tone. “Life’s not a cakewalk for any of us.” That’s why she decided to paint all our colours within this wise woman’s mane, feathers blowing in the wind. Whitecaps rage on the water behind her as she paddles with the spirits of Killer Whale and Flicker to get through the turbulence, thinking of the warmth of the sun she can see on the horizon. Her paddle is fashioned from the feather of a flicker, a species of woodpecker thought in the culture of the Haida to help one travel to the supernatural world. The magic of the feather calls on its ally, Whale Spirit, to help her paddle through the most tumultuous part of her journey, and further on into the future, the unknown. The 30”x30” original, painted in acrylic on a 2" archival cradled board, is $14,500; however, you can get your hands on a limited edition 30" x 30" 18 screen / 21 colour Serigraph on 2” archival cradled board for $2,500. April was born on Haida Gwaii (formerly Queen Charlotte Islands) and moved to Powell River when she was eight. Since her family is very important to her, she continues to commute between these two communities, remaining close to all of her relatives. Her inspiration comes from a NORTH ISLAND COMPASS | ISSUE 8

long line of artists. This includes those whose creativity she watched as a child—her uncles and cousins, Jim Hart and Christian White, and the more distant but innate influence of her great-great grandfather, Charles Edenshaw. April also nurtures her roots in Powell River where she operates a yearround gallery and studio. After graduating with a Bachelor's degree in Geology, she worked in remote camps in the wilderness of BC, and found herself spending more and more of her spare time in her room, quietly painting what she had seen throughout the day. After completing a few paintings, she started to incorporate traditional Haida imagery into her work, creating a surreal juxtaposition of realistic environments and formline representations. Her earliest images incorporated Killer Whales, her namesake as Killer Whale Woman, and Ravens, her clan designation. More recently, her journey has led her to focus on the all-important salmon. “Salmon are very important to me personally,” she states firmly, “and to my culture as a whole.” She turns to her scientific training in the hopes of educating people about the environment through her work with The Herring People, an initiative led by Department of Fisheries & Oceans biologists and funded by UBC’s Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies. The Herring People raises awareness of Pacific herring’s important role in British Columbia’s ecosystem. April has combined her artistic talents with her scientific background in a way that will raise awareness for First Nation communities all across our province and around the world. Shortly after painting Tluu Jaad, April journeyed by canoe from Old Masset on Haida Gwaii to Bella Bella on the West Coast mainland. The two-week trip consisted of a week of paddling and a week of celebrating culture. She learned traditional Haida songs and dances to be performed at the gathering in Bella Bella hosted by the Heiltshuk Nation, and created her own paddle to use on the journey. She painted a clan crest on one side and the same motif of the flicker feather that we can see on the front cover’s enlightened Canoe Woman. April, a gentle person, not only paints for all of us, but also offers us the opportunity to see life through the eyes of Canoe Woman. Images L-R: All Alone Stone Reflecting SGaan; From Shadow to Light-Gagiid; Artist Portrait In Powell River, April runs Wind Spirit Gallery, a gallery and full service framing shop on Marine Avenue, just a quick walk away from the ferry to Comox (and a block from the sublime Costa Del Sol restaurant); in Haida Gwaii, with the help of her family, she runs a Bed & Breakfast on the shores of Massett Inlet. If you have time to spare, why not hop a ferry for a look-see? April's Art: Peter Wall Institute: April's B&B: WWW.NORTHISLANDCOMPASS.CA | 15

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