#2 Second Beach Road
Skidegate, B.C. V0T 1S1
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Artist Statement | Dorothy Spencer
I have a 50-year history of living on the coast – working on remote lighthouse stations, traveling by boat, working on ships and living off the grid on small islands. It has been a life of constant change and has provoked in me an awareness of nature in all its glory. In the work before you I’ve combined my love of nature with my experience of being in cities full of modernity.
Although my home is on Haida Gwaii, lately I’ve been living part-time in Barcelona, Spain. I’m working in Eltorn, Barcelona at the International School of Ceramics, which has private studio spaces for artists. Life there is a very sharp contrast to the natural west coast and lifestyle of Haida Gwaii but in many ways, just as inspiring.
And so, I find that while living in the city of Catalan, Spain, many people there have not had the opportunity to experience what raw nature really is. This non-experience is so prevalent for the majority of humans on our planet today.
Once, when I was particularly lonesome for home, I surprised myself by creating a porcelain sculpture of a white raven – I was thinking of its story, and I’ve always felt very sad about its demise. We had one born on Haida Gwaii. It lived a short life, entertaining islanders, only to die electrocuted by contacting power lines. It was then stuffed and amounted for display. If you Google where in the world white ravens can be found, you will find that they show up on the west coast of North America and England.
I wanted to find a way to honour the one that came to us, recognize its sacredness, and bring the white raven back to Haida Gwaii. To me they represent the respect I have for people of the Haida Nation and acknowledge that all natural life is watching and witnessing the human activities that created such drastic changes in our world.
To create the work before you I have used the potter’s wheel, plaster casting, hand building, and sculpting while adding layers of repetitive imagery. I call this technique a ‘collage’ which eventually obscures the original form. I like exploring disintegration, crumbling, erosion, softened materials, natural elements and the wear of time.
As to the materials, you will see a mix of stoneware clays, Limoges porcelain, a Japanese ‘silver clay’ and silver casting.
In addition to white raven, my objects also represent human constructs that have stood for centuries. These are iconic images that I’ve seen in my travels – church towers, fortresses, lighthouses, castles, architectural ornamentations and statues. A few religious images also show up in my work – Buddha, church votives and prayer shrines, and the call to prayer in the form of minarets.
The towers represent lighthouses – rescue – a light of hope in the darkness, and a guide to navigate a safer direction. There are also towers which I call ‘energy chargers.’ This designation gives them an extra empowerment for positive change. The sculptures all embody a belief in our abilities to make choices for the better.
This exhibit was designed specifically for Haida Gwaii, and the first white raven piece was created four years ago. Little did I know at the time of booking the gallery that the concept would expand and arrive to be viewed in a time of such turmoil.
As the white raven watches us, we must reflect on our role to make the sea-changes needed for our planet.