Sunday, November 06, 2005


Spirit Faces Book review

Book Review

Another of my favourite books is Spirit Faces.

Spirit Faces, by Gary Wyatt
Thames and Hudson
ISBN 0-500-27800-8
£ 12.95 in the UK.

If you love, as I do, West Coast North American native masks this is an essential book to have. It is a collection of colour photographs of modern mask with a brief commentary on each.

The introduction gives a brief background to the area, history and revival of the arts of this area. You may or may not, know that the art and culture of this area was severely repressed. At times brutally and cruelly. The revival began with exhibitions in the 1940's.

Now there is a thriving art world in this area using traditional forms and themes developing as the artists realise new ambitions.

The rest of the book is divided into three sections

Narrative Masks

Clan and Crest Masks

Shaman and Transformation Masks

Followed by biographical notes on each artist.

The book features 23 contemporary artists including

Bruce Alfred
Joe David
Beau Dick
Tim Paul
Art Thompson
To name but a few.

Each one of the 75 vibrant photographs is supported by comments from the artist. It helps the reader, giving insight into the mind of the artist and his thoughts on his work.

If you don't have this book in your collection check it out and see what I mean. I'm sure it will become a favoured feature of your book collection.
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What a great site! I love Spirit Faces and had the opportunity to see the show when it was at the Inuit Gallery in Vancouver. I no longer live in the Northwest, but always try to check out what's new at the gallery (my absolute favorite in the world) whenever I am on holiday from New York City visiting my family. Caroline, one of gallery sales consultants is lovely, knowledgeable and always sends me photos of new masks that fit in my price range. She is also wonderful to chat with in person. The Museum of Art and Design in New York put together a native art exhibit a couple of years ago, for which I attended the preview party. I was taken aback by the fact that the Northwest Coast art was presented in a way that was so inaccessible and high-brow. How New York! The exhibit featured some of the same artists whose work is regularly seen at the Inuit, where you can actually meet them in person, chat, and get within inches of pieces to experience the art in a truly Northwest way. I felt a little slighted by the New York experience, but I'm not sure New Yorker's in all their "absolute fabulousness" would have gotten it anyway. I collect masks, and in the last two years, I have begun making my own masks of wire screen and papier mache. They are highly inspired by tribal masks and most especially those of the Northwest Coast. You can check out some of my work on my blog about art and life in general at
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