Bill Reid: Beyond the Essential Form
Author(s): Karen Duffek
Synopsis: Bill Reid, master artist, goldsmith, carver, writer, and spokesman, has been widely acclaimed as the pivotal force in the rediscovery and reflowering of the great art traditions of the Natives of the Northwest Coast. According to eminent French anthropologist Levi-Strauss, Reid “brought Northwest Coast art to the world scene, into dialogue with the whole of mankind.”
In this artistic biography, Karen Duffek gives an account of Bill Reid’s life and work and of his role as artist, innovator, and ambassador of Haida art. After describing the processes by which Reid came to reconstruct the formal rules of a complex artistic tradition, Duffek focuses on his mastery of new techniques, particularly in making jewellery, techniques which others now emulate. In the key chapter “Beyond the Essential Form,” she uses Reid’s own categories of his work as “copies, adaptations and explorations,” to give a candid appraisal of his artistic achievements — from massive poles to gold boxes, from intricate bracelets to the great bronze Killerwhale statue.
Specialists, collectors, and lay readers with an interest in Northwest Coast Native art or in Reid’s work in particular will welcome this insightful critical biography published in association with a Reid exhibit at the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology.