Bill Reid ~ Haida

Published on August 24, 2014 by Amy

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By Bill Reid
By Bill Reid

William Ronald Reid was a world renowned sculptor and is now regarded as one of Canada’s finest artists. Bill Reid was also a descendant of the great Haida carver and silversmith, Charles Edenshaw. Bill did not elect to study art in high school, but he did recall a young substitute teacher, Jack Shadbolt, who read poetry and introduced Kandinsky-style drawing to his class of 8th graders. Bill Reid’s adult career surprisingly began in broadcasting as a radio announcer. His deep, resonant voice and clear use of English took him to a variety of stations including ten years with the CBC in Toronto and Vancouver. While Bill was working on Toronto, two events proved to be formative to his career as an artist. He studied jewellery making at the Ryerson Institute of Technology, and he became acquainted with the collection of Northwest Coast Native art in the Royal Ontario Museum. Of particular interest to him was a great pole from his mother’s ancestral village, Tanu. It was during this time that Bill began to explore his cultural heritage and the art of the Haida people. Before he left the CBC in 1958, Bill wrote and narrated a television documentary that explored salvaging the last totem poles of the Queen Charlottes. He also narrated a film documenting the “People of the Potlatch” exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery. When Bill Reid returned to the West Coast, he began to seriously pursue Native imagery in both jewellery and sculpture. Soon after his arrival, he was engaged in a four year task to recreate a section of a Haida Village for the University of British Columbia. This task was the turning point for Bill Reid’s incredible artistic career that saw him produce remarkably intricate jewellery, large sculptures, drawings, and silkscreen prints. Bill created numerous masterpieces including ‘The Skidegate Pole’ in 1978; the ‘Raven and the First Men’ yellow cedar sculpture for the Museum of Anthropology at U.B.C in 1980; the ‘Lord of the Under Sea’ bronze sculpture for the Vancouver Aquarium in 1984; the ‘Lootas’ cedar canoe for Expo ’86, and the most recently, in 1990, the ‘Spirit of Haida Gwaii’ bronze sculpture for the Canadian Embassy in Washington D.C. There is also a bronze cast of the ‘Spirit of Haida Gwaii’ at the International Departures Terminal at Vancouver International Airport. In addition, this sculpture is also featured on Canada’s twenty dollar bill. In 1994, Bill Reid received the prestigious Order of Canada from the Canadian Government.

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