Susan Point: Spindle Whorl
Featuring over three decades of printmaking by Musqueam artist Susan Point.
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Over the past three and a half decades, artist Susan Point has received acclaim for her accomplished and wide-ranging works that compellingly assert the vitality of Coast Salish culture, both past and present.
The range of techniques she employs is as diverse as her selection of materials; they include screen and woodblock printing, wood carving, paper casting and industrial methods of cutting steel, while the scale of her work ranges from the intimacy of the jewellery she produced in the early 1980s to the monumental public sculptures she first undertook in the 1990s and continues to make today.
On tour from the Vancouver Art Gallery, Susan Point: Spindle Whorl showcases her silkscreen prints and their significant role in her practice, with a focus on the recurring motif of the Coast Salish spindle whorl. Comprised of a small (usually) wooden disk with a pole inserted through the centre, this tool was traditionally used by Coast Salish women to prepare wool that would be woven into garments and ceremonial blankets. Point has drawn upon the spindle whorl to provide a formal structure for her art while combining this motif with a uniquely Salish vocabulary of circles, crescents, and curved triangles—elements that distinguish the art of her people from the formline-based art of northern Indigenous peoples of the Northwest Coast.
While Point’s practice is informed by a profound respect for Coast Salish traditions, she has pushed the boundaries of tradition in her desire to represent Salish culture in the contemporary world. When she embarked on her career, there were few precedents for an Indigenous woman carving or working with sculpture, as these were activities traditionally done by men. Nonetheless, as this exhibition shows, Point has continually pushed the traditional form of the spindle whorl in extraordinary new directions.
Susan Point: Spindle Whorl is organized and circulated by the Vancouver Art Gallery and curated by Grant Arnold, Audain Curator of British Columbia Art and Ian M. Thom, former Senior Curator–Historical.
About the artist
Susan Point is a Musqueam artist based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Point grew up with her family in their home on what is known as the Musqueam Indian Reserve near the mouth of the Fraser River. In the early 1980s, Point became interested in reviving the traditions of Coast Salish art and design. She first began making art in 1981 when she took a jewellery-making course at Vancouver Community College. Her work has since helped revive Coast Salish design and brought new scholarly attention to her culture. She was the first Musqueam artist to have a solo exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Point’s public works include pieces installed at the Vancouver International Airport, Stanley Park, the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC, and the UBC Museum of Anthropology. She has been widely recognized for her work, most recently with the Audain Prize for Lifetime Achievement.
Image: Susan Point, Behind Four Winds, 2012, screenprint, 80.0 x 80.0 cm, Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Gift of the Artist, Photo: Rachel Topham, Vancouver Art Gallery.