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A Conversation on the Legacy of Iljuwas Bill Reid: Celebrating 100 Years

Iljuwas Bill Reid

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Haida artist Iljuwas Bill Reid. In honour and celebration of the work of this iconic artist, Onsite Gallery and Wapatah: Centre for Indigenous Visual Knowledge are holding a virtual celebration on Thursday December 17, 2020.

Dr. Gerald McMaster will be joined in conversation by Jisgang Nika Collison and Kathryn Bunn-Marcuse, with Bill Holm joining through a pre-recorded interview, as they examine how Iljuwas Bill Reid gained a sense of identity and purpose through his artistic practice.  

This event will explore the legacy of Reid’s work and how it has shaped the perception and development of Northwest Coast art, and his long-lasting impact within the Haida community. 

In honour and celebration of the work of this iconic artist, the Art Canada Institute commissioned Dr. Gerald McMaster to author a book about Reid’s life and work. The online book will be launched on December 11, 2020 and will be available on the ACI website. 

Few twentieth-century artists were catalysts for the reclamation of a culture - Iljuwas Bill Reid (1920–1998) was among them. Born into a mixed-race family in Victoria, B.C., and denied his mother’s Haida heritage in his youth, Reid would go on to become one of the most significant Northwest Coast artists of our time. During his fifty-year-long career he was prolific and articulate—creating nearly a thousand original works and writing dozens of texts that gave voice to his vision and the cultural issues of his day. He is remembered as a passionate artist and an adamant community activist, mentor, and writer. Iljuwas Bill Reid: Life & Work details this incredible journey, exploring how Reid lived the reality of colonialism yet tenaciously forged a creative practice that celebrated Haida ways of seeing and making.  

For more information and to register, please visit the Eventbrite registration page

Gerald McMaster, O.C., is one of Canada’s most revered and esteemed academics. He is a curator, artist, and author, and is currently professor and Tier 1 Canada Research Chair of Indigenous Visual Culture and Curatorial Practice at OCAD University where he leads a team of researchers at the Wapatah: Centre for Indigenous Visual Knowledge. McMaster served as the curator for the 1995 Venice Biennale, artistic director of the 2012 Biennale of Sydney, and curator for the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale. He is nêhiyaw (Plains Cree) and a citizen of the Siksika First Nation. 

Jisgang Nika Collison is Executive Director and Curator at the Haida Gwaii Museum at Kay Llnagaay, specializing in historic and contemporary Haida art and culture. She is of the Ts'aahl Eagle Clan. She is a singer, drummer, and weaver, and has been working in her community for a number of years on Haida language, dance, and repatriation projects. 

Bill Holm, Professor Emeritus of Art History and Curator Emeritus of Northwest Coast Indian Art at the Burke Museum, Holm is best known for his book Northwest Coast Indian Art: An Analysis of Form (1965), a work credited with establishing a new vocabulary for First Nations art in the Pacific Northwest. The Burke Museum established the Bill Holm Center for the Study of Northwest Native Art in 2003, honouring Bill Holm’s remarkable career and continuing his legacy of sharing with people and communities from around the globe. 

Kathryn Bunn-Marcuse is the curator of Northwest Native art and director of the Bill Holm Center for the Study of Northwest Native Art at the Burke Museum, and assistant professor of art history at the University of Washington. Her publications focus on the indigenization of European-American imagery, 19th-century Northwest Coast jewelry and other body adornment, and the filmic history of the Kwakwaka’wakw. In her role as curator, she collaborates with First Nations communities and artists to identify research priorities and to activate the Burke Museum’s holdings in ways that are responsive to cultural revitalization efforts.