the eye’s rhythm

I spent a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon at the Vancouver Art Gallery looking at the Charles Edenshaw exhibition. It was wondrous. The silver bracelets, the headdress frontlets, the small model poles, the argilite platters. I loved sitting on a bench against one wall and listening, through headphones, as Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson told the story of how Raven gave females their tsaw. I’d already looked at the platters but having heard the story, I looked again. It’s a story of Raven paddling to the island of vaginas to bring genitalia (tsaw) back for the women and how he and his crew members were overcome with sweetness (which Ms. Williams-Davidson explained was orgasm), unable to paddle further than a few strokes, and having to return to shore to figure out another way to make this work. Wedging Fungus Man into the back of the canoe was the solution. Yes, he too was affected by the sweetness (do you know a man who wouldn’t be?)  but he managed to keep paddling. And in each platter, you can see his wide-eyed surprise and his difficulty at having to paddle while in the throes of that sweetness.

I looked at the spruce root hats woven by Isabella Edenshaw for a long time. She’d weave the hats and Charles would paint them. Sea lions, dogfish, ravens, frogs — each so beautiful. Isabella’s work is very fine. She used a concentric diamond or dragonfly pattern which you can see best around the brims, her surfaces so tight and even and clean. And what I noticed was how the patterns gave the painted images a liveliness, a sense of rhythm, and I wondered how much of that was intentional. A long marriage, a long working relationship, the hands and the eyes learning each other’s intimate vocabulary.

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