“A picture is not a collection of portrayed objects nor is it a certain effect of light and shade nor is it a souvenir of a place nor a sentimental reminder, nor is it a show of colour nor a magnificence of form, nor yet is it anything seeable for sayable. It is a glimpse of God interpreted by the soul.”
Carr used Totem Poles to transcend her artistic expression compelled to bring nature and sentinels to canvas together with other artifacts of First Nation culture. The Vancouver, BC Art Gallery explains these sentinels as Totem Poles.
“Totem Poles record the real and mythic histories of chiefly families and First Nations communities. They have many purposes: to tell stories, show land rights, celebrate marriages, remember the dead and welcome guests. The carved images on totem poles are crest figures. They show the animal, human and supernatural ancestors of a family. The rituals involved in constructing and erecting totem poles are ancient and complex. Totem poles are made of wood, usually cedar, and are carved by a master carver working with apprentices. Totem poles are often painted with bright, durable colour derived from plant and mineral sources. When erected, they are dedicated with a detailed account of the meaning and history of each figure depicted on the pole. They are then established through feasts and potlatches where guests are paid, with food and gifts, as witnesses to the host chief’s claims.”
Click here to watch this short video by Historica Minutes of Emily Carr as we learn about Carr’s originality of mind and her fierce and independent spirit were what provided the basis of her magnificent paintings – works which document her long process of personal discovery, and express the mood, the mystery and the soul of the West Coast. Although she traveled and studied abroad, it was her birthplace which inspired the two great themes of her work: the native culture of the Pacific Coast, and the power of nature expressed in images of rain-forests and seascapes.