It was a real honour to be invited to see the studio space of Nuxalk artist Noel Pootlass. For over 30 years, Noel has been drawing, painting, and carving in his home studio.
We saw hundreds of canvases and wood pieces in all stages of development – from raw logs and rough cut shapes to partially painted plaques to finished masks and talking sticks.
Noel shared stories and pictures of many of his pieces that have been sold around the world to galleries, individual customers, corporate clients and government buyers looking for gifts for events or dignitaries.
Here’s a sample of many finished pieces and works in progress. This blue and black painting on canvas shows the connections between many of the Aboriginal ‘symbols’ recognized around the world… you can see an Inuit Inukshuk, an Eagle representing First Nations, and the infinity sign that connects them that is linked to Métis culture (symbolizing the continuity of the mixed blood lines). There’s a finished small blue Eagle mask that was ordered for the front of someone’s headdress for their regalia, and a fun Frog piece on a stand.
Noel shared that in the Nuxalk ways – their Smayusta – the Frog is often seen as the healer.
“When people were sick,” he said, “the community would often paddle a full day to take them out to the local hot springs in Ix7piixm. Frog – or sometimes a legendary Snake – would come to the person to take the sickness away.”
I asked Noel to make me one of his rabbit fur-trimmed Frog masks with glass eyes and a unique green wood wash. I think that having a Frog on my desk back home will help remind me to take care of my own health and healing. Chris Rand is considering the logistics of taking a cedar Wolf plaque home to Nelson, BC.
We love supporting BEST students… and their Authentic Art!
To learn more about the Nuxalk ways, history, and cultural protocols, visit their website www.Nuxalk.net