Posted by: Robert Janssen | October 3, 2010

Bill Reid: Life and Legend

William (Bill) Ronald Reid, OBC (born Victoria, BC, 12 January 1920; died Vancouver, BC, 13 March 1998) was a Canadian artist whose works included jewelry, sculpture and painting. He was born to an American father of Scottish-German descent and a mother from the Haida (one of the First Nations of the Pacific coast) in Victoria, British Columbia. He developed a keen interest in Haida art while working as a radio announcer in Toronto, where he also studied jewelry making, having first learnt about his heritage from his maternal grandfather, who had himself been trained by Charles Edenshaw, a Haida artist of great renown.

In 1951, he returned to Vancouver and became greatly interested in the works of Edenshaw, working to understand the symbolism of his work, much of which had been lost along with the many Haida traditions. During this time he also worked on salvaging artifacts, including many intricately carved totem poles which were then moldering in abandoned village sites, and aided in the partial reconstruction of a village in the University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology.

Working in the traditional forms and modern media (usually gold, silver and argillite), he began by making jewelry before branching into larger sculptures in bronze, red cedar and Nootka Cypress (yellow cedar) usually portraying figures, animals, and scenes from folklore, as well as assisting in the preservation of the accompanying mythology.

Previously, children of First Nations mothers and European fathers were not eligible for Indian status in Canada. When the law was changed, Reid was quick to apply for recognition as an Indian.


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