An Artful Moment: Emily Carr

For the sake of an aesthetically fruitful collaboration between eye and mind:

"Logger's Culls"

Emily Carr (1871-1945) was a Canadian painter and writer. She studied and worked in San Francisco, England, and France, but her art blossomed in the 1930s, when she returned to Canada and began specializing in depicting scenes from the lives and rituals of Native Americans living in the Pacific Northwest: “Indian Art broadened my seeing, loosened the formal tightness I had learned in England’s schools. Its bigness and stark reality baffled my white man’s understanding… I had been schooled to see outsides only, not struggle to pierce.”

"Totem Walk at Sitka"


"Zunoqua of the Cat Village"


Carr soon developed what today might be called an “ecological vision,” and she was deeply concerned about the destruction of the wilderness: “I glory in our wonderful west and I hope to leave behind me some of the relics of its first primitive greatness. These things should be to us Canadians what the ancient Briton’s relics are to the English. Only a few more years and they will be gone forever into silent nothingness and I would gather my collection together before they are forever past.”

"Scorned as Timber, Beloved of the Sky"


I will let Carr’s words serve as commentary on her work:
β€œI sat staring, staring, staring – half lost, learning a new language or rather the same language in a different dialect. So still were the big woods where I sat, sound might not yet have been born.”

"A Rushing Sea of Undergrowth"


β€œIt is wonderful to feel the grandness of Canada in the raw, not because she is Canada but because she’s something sublime that you were born into, some great rugged power that you are a part of.”

"The Mountain"


“There is something bigger than fact: the underlying spirit, all it stands for, the mood, the vastness, the wildness.”

"Forest"

I close with a biographical detail that helps to illuminate the character of Emily Carr. The Nuu-chah-nulth tribe of Vancouver Island’s west coast nicknamed Emily Carr “Klee Wyck” – “The Laughing One” – and that is the title she used for a book she published in 1941 that won the Governor General’s Award.

Emily Carr

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