ELAINE QUEHL, Quilt Artist, Teacher, Dyer, Designer

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia

I've been to Vancouver several times and have known about the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia for a long time. I had never visited until this trip. Why not? I find myself unable to focus in museums when I'm travelling because I keep thinking I should be outside. Especially so when I am enjoying the beautiful summer weather on the west coast. At the same time, I think it is shocking that a person whose Honour's Degree was in Anthropology and Religion had never taken the time to view this Museum. The visit was long overdue.

I have one thing to say. Why did I wait so long?? This may very well be the best museum I've ever visited. The Museum of Anthropology is a treasure trove of First Nations art and culture.

Let's start with Haida artist Bill Reid (1920-1998). I've been aware of his work for at least a decade, due in part to a trip to Haida Gwaii in 2006, and also due to seeing his amazing sculpture called Spirit of Haida Gwaii (photo below) in the Canadian Museum of History in my own city. Haida Gwaii is an island on the Northwest coast of British Columbia, and the ancestral home of the Haida people.

You will find Bill Reid's work on our Canadian $20 bill:

Seeing Reid's carving, The Raven and the First Men (1980), was the highlight of my visit to this Museum. There is an entire section of the museum devoted to him, with a beautiful spherical shaped sky light shining over the sculpture that represents his interpretation of the Haida creation story. 

You can read about the story here, but in a nutshell (or perhaps I should say a clamshell ;-) it involves Raven coaxing the first humans from out of a clam shell. Just click on the image and a larger one will open up.

Here's a bit more information, and an explanation of how Reid changed the nature of Haida Art.

OK, I think I took photos from every angle. I find this piece very powerful. If all I had seen at the Museum was this carving, it would have been worth the price of admission. But I saw so much more!

I've tried as best I could to also photograph the text and explanations for each piece. Photography is allowed at the Museum as long as one does not use a flash.

The great hall is enclosed with glass, and the good lighting makes it easier to photograph the works without flash.

Cedar Man is a carved welcome figure found on Meares Island. This one by Joe David, of the Tla-o-qui-aht tribe, 1984.
You can read here about how it was used in logging protests.

In the 1950's the British Columbia Totem Pole Preservation Committee took what was left of totem poles in danger of being damaged and lost due to the elements and relocated them to museums. Many of these came from Haida Gwaii, although some remain there.


When the Europeans settlers arrived at Haida Gwaii, the Haida people had already been carving totem poles since the 1700's. After European contact, there seems to have been an increase. The totem pole below is believed to be about 160 years old

It may have been an interior home post.

After European contact, indigenous peoples expressed the experience of colonization in their art. In this piece, the winged angel, shotgun and american eagle represent the conflict and violence, as well as the resistance to the imposition of European ideas.

Ceremonial figure from Kwakwaka'wakw culture.


Kwakwaka'wakw heirlooms, including blanket boxes, and a wooden dish in foreground.

This is just a small sampling of what is on display at the Museum of Anthropology. I hope you will have a chance to visit and that you will find it as moving and fascinating as I did.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Last Day in Victoria, British Columbia

I had one last day in Victoria after my teaching was finished, and I decided to make it count. Ever since I'd seen a photo of Emily Carr House on my Facebook feed when my friend Catherine Hornstein visited some months back, I had decided this would be one of my destinations. You see, I'm a big fan of Emily Carr's art. Here is the home she was born in and spent most of her life in. She lived from 1871-1945. Much of her inspiration was drawn from nature and from the indigenous people of the northwest coast. She is also the author of several books. Emily was a lover of animals, and you can see she kept many cats and dogs, as well as a monkey at one time.

The house is in a relatively quiet residential neighbourhood just south of the downtown. Within minutes you can escape from the throngs of tourists, and be in this beautiful and calm sanctuary.

Not everything you see in these photos actually belonged to Emily. The paint box and tools below, for example, actually were used by one of the restorers who worked on preserving her paintings. This I was told by the very knowledgeable man working at the entry to the house.

In those days Emily would have worked from a typewriter like this.

She probably would have needed to use a sewing machine that looked much like this.
I love these couches from that period. I think they are called settees?

A row of women's coats from the period.

A photo, although not the best, of Emily and her dogs.

At the time I was there, artist Megan Mansbridge was showing her paintings at the house. They are very much in the style of Emily Carr.

Megan was also present dressed as Emily Carr, and educating guests about her life and work. I am unable to find a website for Megan, but you can read about her on the Emily Carr House website.

The house is full of quotes from Emily's writings. These are the ones that really speak to me. The first is about solitude. If you click on the photo, you should get a larger image you can read.

This one is especially meaningful to me because it talks about her dream of greenery. People have often asked me if I'm ever going to work with anything but green (in my hosta leaves). My answer is always, "when I'm ready".

I wasn't sure how much time I'd have left to go visit the gardens at Royal Roads University, but I decided that if I had at least an hour before my ferry ride back to Vancouver, I would take it. I'm so glad I did. Thank you to my friend Albertina Pianarosa for telling me about these gardens. They are clearly a well-kept secret because I found them peaceful and quiet.

Before I became a full-time quilt artist I worked in administrative positions in universities and colleges. Several times I worked in the "administration building" of one of these institutions. I can tell you that none of them looked like the administration building at Royal Roads University!! The gardens are just behind this building.

There are several divisions in the garden, including an Italian garden, rose garden, west coast forest garden, water garden, etc. I had limited time so did not visit the rose garden because I'd already visited two on the west coast.

Let's begin with the Italian garden. Back in 2012 my husband and I took a trip to Umbria and Lazio, Italy, and a large part of it was spent visiting gardens. We thought we'd died and gone to heaven. This wonderful garden reminded me a bit of that trip. For example, these beautiful statues were surrounded by climbing roses.

And at this point in the garden I felt as though I'd entered Ninfa Gardens in Lazio, Italy. I emailed my husband to tell him, and he didn't believe me until he saw the photos. Check for yourself. Here's the post I made in 2012 of Ninfa Gardens.

To see all of the Italian gardens we visited on that trip, you will find them at this link.

But back to the garden at Royal Roads. It includes a walk through a northwest coast temperate rainforest, with the kind of huge trees Emily Carr would have painted.

Immediately behind the administration building is a sort of English-type garden. I can't explain why, but I find this flower absolutely beguiling! It may have to be a quilt.

Look at the beautiful round and chunky centres on these flowers!

I saw two peacocks wandering around the property. One of them wore all-out colour. The other was quite drab.

I'm told there is an albino peacock on the campus, but I did not see it.

I made it to the ferry docks in Sidney an hour early for my booking, so they let me on the 6 pm ferry. Check out this beautiful mountain view on the ferry ride.

I could not have asked for better weather! Oh, have I mentioned this before ;-)?? Thank you to all the groups who invited me to lecture and teach for you. It was a tremendous trip. I still have a few specifics to blog about, but for the most part, this takes you through an overview of my trip.