Renowned artist Susan Point sets Salish footprint in Burnaby

Vue Point exhibit is on at the Deer Lake Gallery until June 2

Susan Point is following her historical roots to Burnaby for an art exhibit at Deer Lake Gallery.

“I’ve never really shown in this area, and people in this area, I hope they realize this is Salish territory. At one time my people lived in little villages along this area,” Point, who is of Musqueam descent, told the NOW. She added that she wants to “hopefully set the Salish footprint upon this area so people are aware that, hey, this is Coast Salish territory, this is their art form.”

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The exhibit is a chance for people to see the world from Point’s perspective, her Vue Point. Nature has always played a major role in what she’s created, she said.

“Over the years, I’ve done so much, right, in terms of different images, but a lot of space on the environment,” Point said. “I like to use nature, animal forms, the outline of a Coast Salish person.”

Two animals in particular feature prominently in her work.

“I love salmon because of the Fraser River, and that was, you know, sustenance for my people, and I love the frog,” Point said. “I love frogs because I remember the story my mother used to tell me, and that was how they knew when spring came, that was when the frogs started croaking, and when they stopped singing, after their berry picking or whatever they’re doing in the summer months, when the frogs stopped singing they knew it was time to go into the longhouse. So it was the telling of seasons.”

Point began her career as an artist making jewelry and two-colour prints of her work, she told the NOW. She then moved onto painting and eventually, to wood carving.

“It wasn’t until 1990 that I started carving wood,” she said, explaining she was connected with John Livingston, who was not of First Nations descent but had been adopted by the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation via the famous Hunt family, who taught him to carve.

“He is very good – he was my teacher. He came over and he taught me the basics in woodcarving, the tools, the knives. And that’s how I started, and once I started I couldn’t stop because it is so meditative,” Point said. “And I love the smell, I can just sit there and carve away. I just love it, you know.”

Unfortunately the oils in the cedar began to affect her eyes and sinuses, so she doesn’t carve as much as she would like.

These days, she is mostly drawing and painting.

“I’ve done a few charcoals but that’s something I’d like to get into more,” she added, saying she spends a lot of time on commissions.

“Somebody always wants something so I’m not given the free rein to do whatever I want to do,” she explained, but added she did have freedom with her sculptures and public art pieces.

“In some cases I’ve been given guidelines to follow – depending on the area, I have to think about the environment in terms of medium,” Point said. “I try to create imagery that kind of reflects the area and in doing so, again, I’ll use nature or the surrounding areas to create something. Everything revolves around nature.”

Point of Vue is opening at the Deer Lake Gallery, 6584 Deer Lake Ave., on Saturday, May 5 and runs until June 2. The opening reception is at noon, May 5. 

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