John Marston has begun squaring and roughing out a cedar log for a carving he’s doing as ‘artist in residence’ at the Waterfront Gallery.

John Marston has begun squaring and roughing out a cedar log for a carving he’s doing as ‘artist in residence’ at the Waterfront Gallery.

Marston ‘artist in residence’ at Waterfront Gallery

It’s a state of mind – a form of meditation, he says

When there’s no reporters around, pestering him with questions, and John Marston is alone with the gigantic half rounds of cedar he’s shaping into works of art, he’s often praying to the tree that is allowing him to make real a human vision.

It’s a state of mind – a form of meditation, he says – that is part of the very long process Marston is engaged in at the Waterfront Gallery, where he is hand-carving two immense pieces of cedar. If you can’t immerse yourself spiritually in the art – be in harmony with the routines of chipping, chiselling and shaping for hours, days, months – you could never do what he does: create magnificent art out of magnificent trees.

The logs he’s squaring up, in what used to be a locomotive and truck repair shop behind the Waterfront Gallery, are 16 feet long by three feet wide – two halves of a single split length of cedar. He could be working on them for six months to a year.

“Eventually they have to be full-time to get them done,” he said. “They require that amount of time.”

Carving this big requires a vision, and Marston has encapsulated his in a one-twelfth scale model of what the finished work he’s presently squaring and prepping will look like – one inch in the model for every foot of the finished work.

As a First Nations artist steeped in his people’s traditions, but surrounded by a world where history is being rewritten at an ever accelerating pace, Marston has two approaches to his sculptures.

“A lot of the carvings have historical significance of our history here in Ladysmith or on the Coast,” he said. “Some of the carvings, they tell stories of old legends that have been passed down for thousands of years.”

Then there are works that blend contemporary with traditional.

“Some pieces are completely modern concepts, ideas that I as a First Nations person deal with every day in our modern world. It’s an exploration of both ideas: the traditional concepts and where we are today.”

No matter which approach Marston takes, his view is always from the persepctive of a First Nations artist exploring and explaining his world through art. “The history and the culture always stays,” he said. “That part of it always stays with the work, even if it is considered a contemporary piece.

“Some artists, we’re telling our stories through our work, but we’re also always having to tell our ancestors’ stories. We’re always trying to find ways to meld them both together in a way that’s honorable.”

Marston has an aesthetic in mind for the work. “I think of nice, soft, golden lines throughout the work so when you look at it you still feel like you’re standing in front of an ancient cedar tree,” he said.

This isn’t the first time Marston and the Waterfront Gallery have teamed up. In 2008 he, his brother Luke and a group of Victoria artists mounted an international Crossing the Pacific exhibition at the Canadian Embassy in Japan. The show was also hosted in Ladysmith at the Waterfront Gallery and at the Victoria Art Gallery.

He wants to build on that relationship.

“I’ve spent a lot of time over the years, working with art galleries across Canada and in Vancouver,” Marston said, “and I kept thinking we could show our work here and spend time in our own community, but we also had to create a space and a venue to do that.

“That’s important for myself, and for our Nation and for our community.”

The cavernous machine shop space he’s working in now, as an artist in residence with the Waterfront Gallery holds some personal history for Marston. His father and grandfather worked in the building. “They both worked here when this place was bustling with machinery and all sorts of things.”

Just how long Marston will be working on his sculptures at the Waterfront Gallery is an open ended question. But while he’s there as artist in residence, he’s happy to talk to people and answer questions about what he’s doing. For more information about the Open Studio, call 250-245-1252.

 

Just Posted

(File photo)
Poverty reduction survey identifies 10 poverty themes

Poverty reduction plan will be finalized in July 2021

Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Paul Manly says he has no intentions of leaving the Green Party. (House of Commons image)
Island Green MPs have “no intention” of leaving the party after ‘heartbreaking’ departure

Manly, May only remaining Green MPs after Jenica Atwin left for the Liberals over internal disputes

New COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island by local health area for the week of May 30-June 5. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control image)
COVID-19 cases drop again almost everywhere on Vancouver Island

Nanaimo had four new cases last week, down from 22 the week before

Justine Keefer’s Cedar Elementary School Grade 6/7 class put together a student paper, as part of a school project. Pictured here Andrew Gregory, left, Felix Leduc, Addison Armstrong, Lucia Walker and Anise Dick. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Cedar Elementary School students create their own newspaper

Grade 6/7 class publishes Wolf Pack News as part of language arts and social studies

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

Gabriola Island artist Sheila Norgate is promoting the Digital Innovation Group’s art impact survey. (File photo)
Vancouver Island artists get behind regional arts impact study

Artists urged to use their stature to help put arts and culture super-region on the map

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

Neighbours fight a small late-night bush fire with garden hoses and shovels in Cinnabar Valley on June 5. They couldn’t get help from local fire services because the fire was located in an area under B.C. Wildfire Services jurisdiction. (Photo courtesy Muriel Wells)
Neighbours on edge of Nanaimo city limits left to put out bush fire themselves

Cinnabar Valley residents tackle fire with hoses and buckets for two and a half hours

Darren Campbell’s truck (pictured) was stolen when he stopped to check on a car in a ditch on Cowichan Bay Road on Monday morning. (Facebook photo)
Vancouver Island Good Samaritan’s truck stolen in nasty trick

‘Try to be a Good Samaritan and my $20,000 truck gets stolen right under my nose’

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Creative handmade signs abound at the June 13 Tofino rally for old growth trees. (Nora O’Malley photo)
VIDEO: Tofino stands in solidarity for Fairy Creek Blockades

Over 150 supporters attend rally hosted by Friends of Clayoquot Sound

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

Most Read