Susan Point, Arctic Eclipse, 1999, serigraph, ed. 19/52; Symphony of Butterflies, 2006, serigraph, ed. 55/104; Family Ties, 2011, etched glass and red cedar. Gift of the Salish Weave Collection of George and Christiane Smyth, 2021. Photo: Rachel Topham Photography.

Sixty-seven works by Susan Point

Over the last three decades, Susan Point’s reputation has grown through numerous large-scale private and public art commissions in various media, such as wood, glass, stone and mixed media, but she has remained dedicated to printmaking as a significant element of her practice. Throughout her career she has released a few limited-edition prints every year. Point’s colour palette expands upon the “acceptable” palette that has constituted “traditional” Northwest Coast design. She uses a broad colour spectrum and the printing process itself to blend colour into the design. She also tends to use many different colours in a single print. In this collection of sixty-seven Point works, 32 are based on the spindle whorl. The spindle whorl form, which is a traditional object normally carved from wood or stone, is used in the preparation of wool to create weavings. Many spindle whorls, which could be oval, soft-squared or circular, had complex graphic and geometric designs on one or both sides with a hole in the middle. The circular spindle whorl format is representative of the circle of life and is extremely important in Coast Salish cultural tradition and contemporary design. The spindle whorl design is significant to Point with generations of women in her family being weavers, and it has provided her with endless inspiration for her prints and sculptural works of art.

Susan Point was one of the few Coast Salish artists producing work in the early 1980s and she has played a crucial role in the resurgence of contemporary Coast Salish art making. For close to four decades Point has cultivated her distinct style, fusing modern and traditional elements, drawing inspiration from old stories and redesigning them by using new materials and techniques. With so much traditional knowledge lost after European contact, Point researched Coast Salish history with help from elders and art experts.

Arctic Eclipse was inspired by a story about an albino raven that became a resident in a small northern British Columbia town. “This print honours nature’s way of surprising us with its exciting phenomenon.” (See Susan Point: Works on Paper [2014], 120). The image depicts a human head on its side overtop of the white raven with its wings outstretched.

Symphony of Butterflies offers a kaleidoscopic arrangement of forms and butterfly motifs in a broad colour palette of blues, yellows, greens, lavender, orange and black.

Family Ties is a large etched glass and red cedar work using crescents, circles and trigons. The main image is etched on the glass and depicts five human faces connected and overlapping with their foreheads in the centre and between them around the edge are various animals, fox, duck, deer, bear and hummingbird. The glass is surrounded by a large circular piece of cedar.

Susan Point is a xwməθkwəy̓əm artist who was born in Alert Bay and grew up on the xwməθkwəy̓əm Indian Reserve. She studied collections of Coast Salish art at the Museum of Anthropology at UBC and the Royal BC Museum. Her work has been shown widely across Canada and was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2017. Point’s work is held in numerous public and private collections including the Vancouver Art Gallery and National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa). She has been recognized with an Indspire Achievement Award, a YWCA Woman of Distinction Award, a BC Creative Achievement Award, appointed lifetime member to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, selected to the International Women’s Forum, and was one of Vancouver’s 2012 Remarkable Women. She holds Honorary Doctorates from University of Victoria, Simon Fraser University, University of British Columbia and Emily Carr University of Art and Design; is an Officer of the Order of Canada; and has been presented with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for her contributions to Canada.