Working within the Native-American tradition of the Canadian Northwest, Joe David has become one of the strong contemporary links in the preservation and reinvention of the art of the northwestern Pacific coast’s indigenous population. This program follows David’s creative process, from carving and finishing a magnificent wolf headdress from a block of cedar to its ultimate use as a ceremonial mask worn by the artist himself in a haunting dance that concludes the videotape.
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there was a time when some people thought that the culture and art of the Northwest Coast was dead but a few people practiced it and kept it alive and never died for some of us this isn't a tribute to the past but a tribute to a living culture it is impossible to separate the objects from the environment in which they were created the great forests the abundant life of the streams to see the magic and stillness of the Northwest Coast the people of this coast proudly erected totem poles for all to see for the generations to come they were monuments to their lineage to the great supernatural worlds of Raven Thunderbirds and killer whales their languages and songs were rich and complex their masks and dances were treasured as an artist working in the traditional forms of the northwest coast I spent a lot of time in museums looking at the old pieces wondering about them and learning from them I have this fascination with things haven't survived hundreds of years having survived time I'm as closely connected with the thousands of years in the past as I am to my living present I was closely conscious and connected and dedicated to the past as I am to the future my people were known as Nootka among us were many singers dancers carvers weavers and storytellers I believe that the spirit of these people is alive in me the same blood that ran through them hundreds of years ago is running through me right now I try to get the general shape as soon as possible so that I can so I can follow most of it often to be lighter not layer in the handle can turn around right now it's pretty pretty heavy moisture I was born in clack with sound I was born in a village called hoop it's it the closest translation to a pitch at his resting place of the moon I was one of the younger of a large family that was raised in a house built by my father my older brothers and sisters would take care of us younger ones when our parents were up the coast hunting or fishing the important event in the lies of the village children was being sent away to the mission boarding schools all the native children of my generation went to those schools I remember going there at eight years old at first I didn't like it there I didn't like the school and I didn't want to be there it was totally unfamiliar to me but once I found brothers cousins and other kids my own age that were similar to me I came to realize that there were things there that fascinated me it was a much bigger and greater world and I'd realized it was much more than the Julie just much more than the tides and the seasonal run of the salmon deer or berries it was a whole new world for me I remember there was very little time to be alone and I needed a place to go a place apart from the others it was then that I discovered a chapel and it became a special place for me I would find myself seeking it out because it was always calm it was quiet it was always safe and it was always beautiful when I first saw the altar I thought someone has created it someone has carved and painted it because that was my world my father was a carver and painter people in my village was always creating as a child I remember my reverence was for the artwork in that Chapel and its effect on the room and everyone in it just as I had seen my cultures art have a similar effect on the people that of on respect after three years at the school when I was 11 my family moved away from the village and traveled across the western states as migrant farm workers in my teens I got a scholarship to attend art school it was only as I became older and realized how important my own culture was to me that I dedicated myself to the art of my people it was then that my father gave me my adult Indian name apologies I spend as much time as I can on this island it is only recently that I've rediscovered how important this environment is to my work how it influences me I've learned to recognize the powers of nature as being the same as that of all creativity and I try to express that through my carvings I'm now making a wolf headdress that represents my Indian name I want the life and spirit of both forest and ocean to come through I came into this world to be an artist and that's why I'm an artist I didn't it just didn't come along the way and I said okay I can do it easily I think I meant to be that way all along I'm not doing all this to survive even though I make things in it and they're accepted and people pay a lot of money for all that but I'm not doing it to survive I do it for pure joy I do it for the love of it I do I carve wood for the love of wood it's not just a piece of cedar I love it I love the tools I love every shape every color of wood every grain movement a lot of people in Vancouver and Seattle commissioned work for their private collections as do museums my friend Norman Tate's carving a welcome figure whose every to next time I'll be doing it'll be a woman figure a mate to this one that's been do it bowl answer but I like this blue thing under the same thing self-portrait that at your anishka smile meant to touch this socket strong my decision to do through this wolf comes from the beauty and grace of the wolf dance so carving at a keep in mind what I want to what movements I want to emphasize what movements I'm going to use are the Wolves the anger I'll be coming out taking its body taking it's taking us life and turn it into a dance throughout history it's the are correct that survives they can you can talk and talk and talk and talk about Tutankhamun and Michelangelo and all the Pope and all the politics and all the goddamn wars but you stand in front of that thing and you look at it and someone made it hundreds of years ago you think of the man that did it the man I did it and what it meant to him to execute it what it meant to do them what these people meant him what he's tiny meant him and what he's personal contribution meant to him and that's what drives me to do it to me to do this mask or to do this dance or to do this whatever it is is that I known from looking at the fire from the past that they knew that they knew what they what it meant to do that that's why it was so monumental they wanted their great-great-great grandchildren to know what they stood for and then to be able to relay it to the other people to the rest of the tribes this is my family this is what we know this is what we look like this is what we stand for