Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Interview with a carver, part two


I find one of the most difficult elements of doing an interview is expressing ideas that you truly believe in and not talking about ideas that you are still formulating. it is an interesting process, seeing your spoken voice and realizing that sometimes you're not expressing your ideas clearly.
CGI: Can you describe any barriers you have when trying to share your vision with the general public?
 
LP: Obviously, there is the barrier that because of the way my work looks, it is pigeon-holed into being a Native art. It is a barrier, but not one that I mind in any way.
Another barrier comes with the sharing of information about my culture, but I have gotten around that in various ways. For example, when I have showed my work in critiques here [at Emily Carr University] I have had to bring in some of my own people. Because my work is so culturally specific, people don’t know how to interpret it, or give feedback, so I have invited Native dancers, artists and curators to help the class understand my work through sharing their own opinions.
As an artist, I am always looking for feedback, and when people didn’t know what to say, it was detrimental. Because the projects I was working on for class assignments were created much faster than ‘normal’, feedback was key to push it forward.
CGI: Do you have an example of one of your pieces/projects that makes people think about choices?
 
Well, I feel that Northwest Coast Art is much more like design than it is art – like design, it helps people make choices because a lot of the traditional work revolves around usable objects, and design is about being useful and informing people.
Carvers were canoe builders, they built houses and fish traps, they shaped the way people lived their everyday lives, and influenced people’s decisions through form. A totem pole tells the story of the people who live on the land, it tells people who owns the land, the history and the beliefs.
Generally speaking, the Northwest Coast, people own stories, and stories are tied to the land. This is especially true up North, where people retain more of our protocols. Songs and stories are owned by different families, and when they are related to the land, it means they own the land as well.
There is a huge element of meaning in Northwest Coast art. And that is another reason some Native Artists, when selling a piece, like a mask, to a commercial gallery, they make it so that it can’t be worn, because then it can’t be worn for a traditional purpose. When I am selling a piece to a gallery, I myself believe that it should be a piece of art in the western sense, I create western artwork, and I create cultural objects, this is a choice I make, and it is reflected in my work.
The interview ends there, it's strange how while in the interview the din of the crowded coffee shop becomes white noise. The voices and sounds mushed together like a faded sweatshirt seen through an unfocused lens. And I remember looking at people and objects while searching for my answers during the interview, but all I remember are portraits, still images of faceless strangers and brown walls with orange highlights.
Editing the interview for this blog was a balancing act, between keeping my unique speaking voice and making the spoken word readable. I did a little editing here and there making my answers clearer and shortening one answer, the answer was an idea I have yet to develop(stay tuned).