Monday, October 26, 2015

Abbe Museum 2015 Paddle Art

The 2015 Gathering Gala for the Abbe Museum once again features decorated canoe paddles as part of their fundraising event. This year's exhibit page has 2 paddles that caught my attention because of their focus on traditional Wabanaki designs.

The first is the Wabanaki Tree of Life Paddle by Gina Brooks. Here's a picture and the artist's writeup below:

Gina Brooks
Ash paddle

“My intention is to share examples of Wabanaki art, with their diverse and powerful designs – many of which have also served a very practical purpose in the everyday lives of living and breathing Wabanaki people. Beyond technical rendering of the subject, I have extensively researched the historical background of Wabanaki material culture and the spiritual, symbolic significance of distinctive traditional designs. My design, the Wabanaki Tree of Life, represents both our traditional symbols and our creation from the ash tree – represented by the ash leaves within the curve itself. This paddle represents how we function as a people with our symbology. Because of a deep connection to the earth, the symbology links us to each other. When you dip the paddle, it renews and strengthens that relationship. It gives us the strength to be ourselves, and to show it – all of these symbols reinforce our connection to the earth and to each other.” 

The other interesting paddle to my eyes is by well known birchbark artisan David Moses Bridges. It looks to have en etched layer of birchbark fused onto an ash paddle blade:

David Moses Bridges
Passamaquoddy Ash paddle, birchbark

David Moses Bridges is from the Passamaquoddy reservation at Sipayik. David's great-grandfather, Sylvester Gabriel, passed away when David was a young boy, leaving behind several traditional tools and intricate plans for how to build a birchbark canoe. Having never made a canoe with his grandfather, David eventually went on to boat building school so that he could learn to read his grandfather's instructions. After working with master canoe builder Steve Cayard, David has now built three canoes by himself, and participated in over 20 collaborative programs, many of which have taken place within Wabanaki communities, bringing an almost lost art back to its people.

David's birchbark etching reminded me of birchbark stencils used to decorate paddles. I'm aware of 2 such examples in my research - one is documented in Frank G. Speck's Symbolism in Penobscot art (1927)  - Figure 12, Page 43

The other is an artifact in an artifact in the Smithsonian's NMAI collection posted on the twitter feed of the Associate Curator of the National Museum of the American Indian

Abenaki, Paddle Stencil (detail)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Newer Posts Older Posts Home Page