Gallery explores tradition and West Coast living

Sherry Bezanson talks about the Ladysmith Waterfront Gallery's July exhibition in her Community Art Showcase column.

Jason Harris is exhibiting his work at the July exhibition at the Ladysmith Waterfront Gallery.

Jason Harris is exhibiting his work at the July exhibition at the Ladysmith Waterfront Gallery.

The Ladysmith Arts Council and Ladysmith Waterfront Gallery are pleased to announce July’s exhibition: Proud Tradition and West Coast Living.

The show is intended to arouse your senses with all things West Coast — the natural life around us that includes the ocean, mountains, islands, lush forests, mountains, farmlands, etc.  In addition, we have local Coast Salish artists displaying their work that is rich in symbolism and connection with the natural environment — “four-leggeds, two-leggeds, winged ones” — the animals and birds of the West Coast.

One of those artists, Jason Harris, is a Stz’uminus First Nation carver. He grew up in both Ladysmith and Stz’uminus and describes himself as a beginning carver.  However, his work belies his sense of newness to the art.

His works in the show include a white five-foot Spirit Bear carved from red cedar and coming to life in its stature. Also, he has a Welcome Figure, a child-sized figure wearing a paddler’s jacket depicted with oars and with abalone eyes. Both pieces are painted in traditional tones that evoke the sense of the long history and original cultures that surround Ladysmith and Vancouver Island.

Harris also has smaller carved plaques of Hummingbird, Eagle, Tribal paddles, Baby Seal and a Bear mask.

Harris notes that he was inspired by his father, carver Joe Harris, and later by Cowichan carver Simon Charlie. He has carved masks, plaques, totem poles and other three-dimensional figures, such as the Spirit Bear and Welcome Figure.

He gradually found his love and his gift through carving, and this art has inspired him to be thoroughly involved in the world around him. Harris is an active member of the Stz’uminus community, where he contributes by being involved in the Men’s Group. The organization meets once a week to assist others around the community by painting fences, fundraising and donating to the children’s organizations and cultural gatherings.

His work — and his life — is about giving back to the community and culture that surrounds him.

Harris plans to continue carving, and a goal of his is to learn to paint and use acrylics as well. He recently won a logo contest for the logo for the Stz’uminus soccer team. He said he has always felt welcome at the Ladysmith Arts Council, and it is hoped that his presence in shows continues.

Please do view this exhibition until July 29 and take in Jason Harris’s work and work by other local artists.