As seen in SNAP Victoria, January 2012
The Salish Weave Collection is a private collection of contemporary Salish art which has travelled to various museums and galleries throughout the world. Recently, I got invited to a private tour of the collection by George and Christiane Smyth (who are the brains behind this incredible collection), where I learned about Salish Art and how important it is to support this art form in our community. Did you know that all Salish artwork is created with only 3 distinctive shapes? The Oval, Crescent and Trigon.
Salmon Headdress by John Marston
A portion of this collection has been donated in memory of Dr. Morgan Baker, and is on display at the Cornett Building in UVIC, which you can visit in a self-guided walking tour. Another fun piece of trivia that I learned is that the Cornett building houses only Salish art. You can see more pieces on loan at the First People House on campus as well.
The main purpose of the collection is to support the recognition of this art form from the north west coast of North America. The main goal is to promote talented artists like Susan A. Point, Chris Paul, Maynard Johnny Jr., John Marston, LessLIE, and Dylan Thomas who are all featured in this collection, amongst others.
A significant part of this collection will be exhibited during The Victoria Collects exhibition at the Art Gallery of Victoria from January 6 to May 6, 2012. I had a great opportunity to learn more about the Salish culture and I would recommend taking advantage of this rare exhibition to all locals.
Written Into The Earth by Susan A.Point – In loan at Simon Fraser University
Here is my conversation with activist collectors George & Christiane Smyth the brains behind “The Salish Wave Collection” :
Iván Meade - Why is it so important to support Salish artists?
George & Christiane Smyth – Because there is a renaissance of Coast Salish art, a Northwest Coast indigenous art form practiced in the southern part of BC and the northern part of Washington state.
Salmon Spirits by Dylan Thomas
Iván Meade - Why/When did you start The Salish Weave Collection?
George & Christiane Smyth – In 1999, we purchased some prints and a glass top table by Susan Point to decorate our first Victoria condo. Within the next couple of years, we purchased more Coast Salish artworks and realized we were attracted to this lesser known Northwest Coast indigenous art. We then thought we could build a significant collection by focusing on contemporary Coast Salish art.
Ravens & Moon by Susan A. Point
Iván Meade - I know the collection has been around the world - Where has the collection been?
George & Christiane Smyth – Actually, the signature piece that inspired the name of the collection, ‘’Yellow and Red Cedar Weave’’ by Susan Point, was part of the exhibition Challenging Traditions: Contemporary First Nations Art of the Northwest Coast curated by Ian M. Thom for the McMichael Canadian Art Collection of Ontario. Part of this exhibition travelled to the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland where it was on display in the spring of 2010 to celebrate the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.
Yellow and Red Cedar Weave by Susan A. Point
Iván Meade - Part of the collection is currently at the Cornett building in UVIC as a self-guided walking tour - What was the reasoning housing the collection at UVIC?
George & Christiane Smyth – Most of the prints on display in the Cornett building were gifted from the Salish Weave Collection after we learned that Peter Keller, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, had agreed to dedicate this building, located next to the First Peoples House, to contemporary Coast Salish art. Other pieces on display are a large multi-media work by Susan Point as well as a large piece by Chris Paul who was the first Coast Salish artist to participate in the artist-in-residence program initiated by Dr. Andrea Walsh, professor of Visual Anthropology. We were grateful for the opportunity to bring awareness of this art form within the walls of an institution of knowledge and learning, as was the Faculty for the ability to honor the First Peoples on whose traditional territory the university stands. As Dean Keller said, the stars aligned, allowing this project to meet common objectives.
Reflections by lessLIE
Iván Meade - Who are your favourite Salish artists and why?
George & Christiane Smyth – It is impossible to answer that question because we like all the artists whose works we collect for different reasons. Artworks from Susan Point constitute the largest part of our collection. Susan is the leader of the renaissance of Coast Salish art. She is known for the versatility and complexity of her designs rendered in a variety of media such as paper, wood, glass, metal and stone. She is an inspiration to young Salish artists.
We like the Marston’s siblings: John, a master wood carver, who experimented with printmaking and glass works; Luke, also a master carver, who recently learned and used the repoussé technique on jewelry; and Angela who applies her carving, painting and weaving abilities to the creation of rattles.
We like lessLIE for his graphic designs and his writing; Maynard Johnny Jr for his imagery and use of colors; Chris Paul for his artistic, technical and business abilities; and young Dylan Thomas for the maturity of his designs and his willingness to explore and push boundaries.
Coast Salish artist Chris Paul shows his artwork "Finding Balance" in the Cornett Building. Photo: UVic Photo Services.
Iván Meade - What is your favourite personal piece?
George & Christiane Smyth – We both very much like the signature piece of the Salish Weave collection, ‘’Yellow and Red Cedar Weave’’ by Susan Point. John Marston’s panel ‘’Ehhwe’p Syuth’’ (To Share History and Culture), our first acquisition of a ‘museum-like piece’, is also very dear to us. It is on permanent display at the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver. The ‘’Ravens and Moon’’ glass spindle whorl by Susan Point is also a favourite piece of Christiane as is lessLIE’s print ‘’Protecting Posterity’’ for George.
Iván Meade - What is the most popular piece in the collection?
George & Christiane Smyth – Well, that depends on who is looking at the collection. Family and friends are taken by different pieces as are the art connoisseurs and the curators we have encountered or with whom we had the pleasure to work.
Coast Salish artist lessLIE with his artwork "Reflections" on the entrance door of Cornett. Photo: UVic Photo Services
Iván Meade - What has been the biggest achievement of The Salish Weave Collection?
George & Christiane Smyth – Privately, it has been the design and the completion of two box sets, each containing nine limited edition of 50 prints. These prints were commissioned from the artists mentioned previously. We have gifted Box Set I to different galleries and universities with the objective of spreading awareness of contemporary Coast Salish art.
Publicly, the permanent display of contemporary Coast Salish art in UVic’s Cornett building, home to the Faculty of Social Sciences, is the most significant achievement to date. Next, is the exhibition of 19 artworks of the Salish Weave Collection as part of the Victoria Collects exhibition at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. Curated by Mary Jo Hughes, this exhibition, which runs from January 6 to May 6, 2012, is an important milestone for the Salish Weave Collection.
Conservation by Chris Paul
Iván Meade - What is next for The Salish Weave Collection?
George & Christiane Smyth – More exhibitions and projects with partners such as the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and UVic and the launch of the Salish Weave Collection website. As always, spreading the awareness of contemporary Coast Salish art further and farther.
To learn more about The Salish Weave Collection please visit:
Ivan Meade is a local designer and principal of Meade Design Group, a multidisciplinary interior design and graphic design studio in the heart of downtown Victoria –www.meadedesigngroup.com