REID, Martine J.




Author Tags: Anthropology, Haida Gwaii

Martine J. Reid was married to Bill Reid for the latter half of his life when he created most of his monumental art works such as The Spirit of Haida Gwaii (also known as The Jade Canoe at the Vancouver International Airport) and The Raven and the First Men, both of which have been featured on the Canadian $20 bill.

Before he knew about his Haida heritage, Bill Reid turned to carving ship models and miniatures at the age of 12. Bill Reid Collected (D&M 2016) by Martine J. Reid reveals the only surviving work from that period is a tiny Victorian tea set that he made out of white chalk, coated with pink nail polish, for his younger sister who kept it nestled on a bed of cotton balls in a pocket-sized matchbox. The miniature tea set is one of 126 art works presented for the largest chronological collection of colour photographs of Bill Reid’s art pieces to date—including jewellery, paintings, serigraphs and large carvings. Martine Reid, his second wife, introduces a three-tiered classification sequence for his works: Pre-Haida (1948–1951), Haida (1951–1968) and Beyond Haida (1968–1998).

Martine Reid, Ph.D. is an independent curator who recalls that Reid was raised by his Haida mother, a residential school survivor who hid her family’s First Nation roots. “It would take Reid a lifetime,” she writes, “to unearth what his mother had been forced to bury.”

Martine J. Reid also edited Paddling to Where I Stand: Agnes Alfred, Qwiqwasutinuxw Noblewoman (UBC Press, 2004), the first autobiographical portrayal of a Kwakwaka’wakw matriarch. As a co-author, Kwakwaka'wakw linguist Daisy Sewid-Smith translated the memoirs of her grandmother Agnes Alfred (c.1890-1992), a non-literate storyteller and noble Qwiqwasutinuxw woman of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation who experience a century of change within her community. Martine Jeanne Reid was married to Haida carver Bill Reid, who died in 1998. She also produced an educational children's colouring book, Myths & Legends of the Haida Indians of the Northwest: The Children of the Raven, illustrated by Nancy Conkle, that retells Haida stories. [See Bill Reid entry]

Martine J. Reid is Honourary Chair of the Bill Reid Foundation, which created the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art (BRG) in Vancouver, B.C. in 2008. She was Director of Content and Research, and Curator at the BRG from 2008 until 2012.

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Bill Reid and the Haida Canoe
Carrying on Irregardless: Humour In Contemporary Northwest Coast Art by Peter Morin, Martine Reid and Mike Robinson, editors

BOOKS:

Myths and Legends of Haida Indians of the Northwest: The Children of the Raven (Santa Barbara, California: Bellerophon Books, 1988).

Paddling to Where I Stand Agnes Alfred, Qwiqwasutinuxw Noblewoman (UBC Press, 2004). Editor.

Bill Reid Collected (D&M 2016) $19.95 978-1-77162-115-1

[BCBW 2016] "Anthropology" "QCI"

Paddling To Where I Stand (UBC Press $85)
Review



No birth records exist for First Nations children born in the 1800s, but it’s known that Agnes Alfred, the subject of Paddling To Where I Stand (UBC Press $85), was born early in the last decade of the nineteenth century and she lived for more than 100 years.

Alfred’s age and her position as a Qwiqwasutinuxw noblewoman meant she had access to a vast store of traditional knowledge. She did not speak English and she had no Western education, so she developed extraordinary skills in remembering and story-telling, as well as in memorizing myths, chants, and historical accounts.

Thus Agnes Alfred, who was forced by her family to convert to Christianity as a child, later took upon herself the task of passing her traditional knowledge to younger generations.

In a chapter entitled “Myth Time,” she tells stories such as that of the girl who is dragged into the underworld to live among the Halibut people. This girl is retrieved years later by reaching for one of her father’s halibut hooks, and so returns to her parents.

Women such as Agnes Alfred also functioned as mediators between the natural-human-profane realm and the supernatural-sacred realm.

Agnes Alfred’s transmission of her knowledge might have remained in the realm of the oral, and possibly been lost eventually, had it not been for a remarkable collaboration that occurred between Alfred, the French-born anthropologist Martine J. Reid, and the matriarch’s granddaughter, Daisy Sewid-Smith, a Kwakwaka’wakw language instructor at the University of Victoria.

After Reid came to UBC as a French Ph.D student in 1975, she began to participate in a program to preserve the heritage of aboriginal peoples—and that led her to “Mrs. Alfred.”

When Reid met Agnes Alfred, she was a widow of about eighty, but still independent and living alone in the big house built by her husband for her and their thirteen children in Alert Bay.

It was her habit during the fall and winter to make a cycle of pilgrimages to visit her many relatives and descendants in Campbell River and elsewhere. As the friendship grew, Reid would accompany her on those annual visits, and thus she met Daisy Sewid-Smith, who had long been fascinated by her Native culture.

These three women eventually formed a trusting partnership—Mrs Alfred dictating her memoirs, Daisy Sewid-Smith acting as translator, and Martine Reid transcribing and editing.

The end result is a volume that defies easy categorization. It is an academic work, but the scholarly apparatus never overwhelms or drains the vitality of the subject.

Agnes Alfred’s voice—by turns authoritative, humourous, poetic, and gnomic—rings out clearly throughout. “Poor me; I was married at such a young age.... They sailed away with me right away, and they brought me to this logging camp.... I had not even menstruated yet. I was perhaps only twelve or thirteen. I was really young. I was married for quite some time before I menstruated.”

A chapter entitled “Becoming a Woman,” describes the onset of men-
struation and an elaborate ritual that marked her passage into womanhood. She was secluded from the rest of her household for twelve days, concealed by a curtain in a corner of a room.

During this time, she sat (wearing the hat reserved for nobility), and was cared for by her mother and the tribal elders.

Besides the formal chapters, the editor has included a lively section of “Fragments of Recollections.” These include such varied topics as “My First Baby Buggy,” “My Washing Machine,” and “I Dye My Hair.”

The baby buggy was never used because “it looked so dreadful;” the washing machine was so overloaded that it toppled over and sent the wringer rollers scattering all over the floor; the hair dye, mistakenly applied like hair oil, dyed her hands black.

Paddling To Where I Stand reveals that noblewomen played a significant role in their society beyond the perpetuation of lineages through child-bearing.
Their dowries supplied men with very valuable privileges, both in tangible goods and in prestige, and the power and standing of the men were often derived from their wives.

Besides a preface, introduction, epilogue and footnotes, Paddling To Where I Stand has five appendices. These provide such information as a linguistic key to the alphabet, spelling, and pronunciation of the many words in the text written in the original language of the Kwakiutl people; an account of the Potlatch ceremony and the events surrounding its prohibition; and diagrams showing genealogy and kinship. 0-7748-0912-4

Joan Givner is a freelance writer who lives on Vancouver Island.

[BCBW 2004] "First Nations"

Bill Reid Collected (D&M $19.95)
Article (2016)


from BCBW (Summer 2016)
Before he knew about his haida heritage, Bill Reid turned to carving ship models and miniatures at the age of 12. Bill Reid Collected (D&M $19.95) by Martine J. Reid reveals that the only surviving work from that period is a tiny Victorian tea set that he made out of white chalk, coated with pink nail polish, for his younger sister who kept it nestled on a bed of cotton balls in a pocket-sized matchbox.

The miniature tea set is one of 126 art works presented for the largest chronological collection of colour photographs of Bill Reid’s art pieces to date—including jewellery, paintings, serigraphs and large carvings. Martine Reid, his second wife, introduces a three-tiered classification sequence for his works: Pre-Haida (1948–1951), Haida (1951–1968) and Beyond Haida (1968–1998).

Martine Reid was married to bill reid for the latter half of his life when he created most of his monumental works such as The Spirit of Haida Gwaii (also known as The Jade Canoe) at the Vancouver International Airport and The Raven and the First Men, both of which have been featured on the Canadian $20 bill.

Martine Reid, Ph.D. is an independent curator who recalls that Reid was raised by his Haida mother, a residential school survivor who hid her family’s First Nation roots. “It would take Reid a lifetime,” she writes, “to unearth what his mother had been forced to bury.”

978-1-77162-115-1


Bill Reid Collected



Reviewed by Victoria Wyatt

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Much has been written about Bill Reid (1920-1998), the internationally known Haida artist whose monumental works appear in contexts such as the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC, the Vancouver International Airport, and the village of Skidegate in Haida Gwaii.

Reproductions of his sculptures circulate on the Canadian $20 bill. He left a mark as an author as well as an artist, writing essays and collaborating with co-authors of diverse specializations. A well-illustrated biography by Doris Shadbolt was published the year of his death. Other print and film resources explore his art. Today, Bill Reid enthusiasts command quick access to information and images online: a Google search for “Bill Reid Haida artist” produces some 128,000 results.

What of new value can one small paperback contribute to this ocean of attention? The answer, Bill Reid Collected demonstrates, is a lot. The book constitutes the third volume in Douglas & McIntyre’s “Collected” series. Previous titles celebrate Emily Carr (2013) and Ted Harrison (2015).

Following the series format, Bill Reid Collected presents an opus of elegant colour reproductions with minimal text, offered at an unusually low price for the quantity and quality of illustrations. It opens with “Bill Reid: Deeply Carved,” a 19-page essay by Dr. Martine J. Reid, the Honorary Chair of the Bill Reid Foundation.

As the late Bill Reid’s wife, she is intimately familiar with his creative activities. Reid organizes the essay into three periods: “Pre-Haida Phase (1948-1951): Toronto,” “Haida Phase (1951-1968): Vancouver,” and “Beyond Haida Phase (1968-1998): London (1968), Montreal (1969-1973), Vancouver (1973-1998).”

The essay concludes with a brief section on Bill Reid’s legacy. The writing is intentionally concise; the book exists for the images. Despite this economy, Martine Reid persuasively suggests the value of considering Bill Reid’s art in the context of phases in his life.

This focus on chronology invites the reader to think holistically about Bill Reid’s activities at each stage of his creative career. As he practiced in disparate materials and genres, one can be tempted to classify his works accordingly: jewellery, argillite, drawings, woodcuts, paintings, serigraphs, wood sculpture, monumental castings in bronze. Groupings by such taxonomies facilitate analysis within genres but ignore relationships between genres. Martine Reid encourages us to consider Bill Reid’s creative activities through time, reflecting on how his artistic initiatives in each of the three phases manifest themselves in astonishingly diverse contexts.

“Bill Reid: Deeply Carved” leads into the heart of the book: 126 pages of colour plates of art works, organized chronologically from ca. 1932 through 1997. These spectacular photographs contrast dramatically with the plain white background. No argument or discussion interrupts the images; the sole text on each page is the title of the art work and its date.

Leafing through this gallery, the reader sees a compelling visual display of the tremendous diversity of materials and contexts in which Reid worked during each time period. The arrangement makes vivid the range of Reid’s creative interests and the ways his core values manifested themselves over time.

The design of the book respects the art works. Each enjoys its own page, with close-up images effectively lit to show details. Photographs may present multiple vantage points: a bracelet viewed from left, centre, and right, a brooch photographed both front and back to show an etched attribution to a design by Charles Edenshaw.

Only one work, the sculpture Mythic Messengers made for the façade of the Canadian Museum of Civilization in 1984, gets distorted by crossing the spine of the book. This was unavoidable given its long horizontal dimensions. Otherwise, the paperback permits images of generous size in a lightweight format that is pleasant to hold.

The unexpected diversity of the art works arranged chronologically generates interest: a silver bracelet faces a gold and shell pendant, a gold bracelet faces a bichrome woodcut, a pendant of silver, shell, and fossil ivory faces a metallic wire sculpture.

This visual parade highlights the vast range of Reid’s virtuosity in a way no written statement can. The lack of text heightens the aesthetic impact. Readers who want basic information about each art work will find it in the list of works following the section of images. Organized by page number, that list provides title, date, materials, size, current location, and photo credit.

An argument could be made for including the dimensions with each image to help the reader imagine actual size, especially as the chronological presentation juxtaposes small jewellery with much larger art works. Still, minimal text keeps attention on the visual impact of the photographs.

The physicality of print books offers a more tangible experience than on-line viewing, but definite drawbacks exist. Audiences accustomed to having several browser windows open for comparisons will miss those capabilities. It would be helpful to be able to move back and forth between the essay with its description of the three phases and the photos of art works in each phase. Similar sculptures and casts created in different years appear pages apart, making comparative analysis difficult.

This frustrates in part because of surprising reiterations: for instance, the huge bronze façade Mythic Messengers mentioned above reappears ten years later in the form of a gold bracelet. Likewise, tracking change and continuity over Reid’s career remains impressionistic when one views a single image at a time.

To refer to materials, size, or dimensions, one must flip to the list of works. Readers interested in these various types of cross-referencing should seriously consider purchasing two copies of the book. Its relatively low cost makes this more feasible, while the quality of its photographs justifies the choice.

Bill Reid Collected contributes by presenting images in a new way. Seeing so many diverse art works in chronological order, structured with Martine Reid’s characterization of phases, reveals relationships that more conventional categorizations obscure. This presentation conveys a greater holistic understanding of the creative life of the artist. In so doing, it enhances understanding of his art.

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A settler Canadian, Victoria Wyatt teaches in the Department of Art History & Visual Studies at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C. Her courses explore creative responses of Indigenous artists to colonialism in North America from the eighteenth century to the present, with a focus on the Northwest Coast. She encourages extensive analysis of the Internet as a resource for diverse voices and as a non-linear form of communication. In her research, she is interested in similarities between Indigenous Ways of Knowing and the recent paradigm shift in Western sciences that embraces processes and relationships within dynamic non-linear systems (e.g., neurobiology, quantum physics, epigenetics, climate science). She believes non-linear, holistic
thinking that celebrates invisible interconnections is vital to addressing global challenges today. She holds a doctorate from Yale University and an honorary doctorate from Kenyon College.

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[BCBW 2017]