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Salish Sea Sentinel | July 17, 2024

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Susan Point spindle whorls

Susan Point spindle whorls

A diverse display of Coast Salish spindle whorls by artist Susan Point is now being shown at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

The career-spanning exhibit features various depictions of the spindle whorl, a circular tool traditionally used to prepare wool for clothing and regalia. Though the normally small instrument is usually made from wood, Point’s artistic depictions use many mediums from prints to sculptural work in a range of materials including steel, concrete and paper.

Point, from Musqueam Indian Band, said that though her work is rooted in Coast Salish culture, she considers herself a contemporary artist. She said stories behind cultural pieces – now called art – were always private, which is why she pushes past traditions to create new depictions of Coast Salish images.

“When I design and work on a piece, regardless of medium, there are countless stories, thoughts and memories that go through my mind,” she said in a statement. “I am redesigning the artwork all the time.”

Point was trained as a legal secretary before she entered the art world by enrolling in a jewelry-making course at Vancouver Community College in 1981. Soon after, she moved into printmaking and sculpture. Her uncle by marriage, the University of British Columbia anthropologist Michael Kew, helped her to research the Coast Salish art that has informed her work.

The exhibit in Vancouver spans 35 years of work for Point with more than 100 of her pieces, from some of the first jewelry she made to recently produced sculptures. Vancouver Art Gallery director Kathleen Bartels said the exhibit is meant to give an overdue commemoration to Point’s long career, which has included many commissions.

She said though many have likely seen her art in public places like the Vancouver International Airport, Stanley Park and Langara College, there has never been a museum exhibit showcasing the full range of her work.

The exhibit, she said, “is intended to address this deficiency and to acknowledge and celebrate her extraordinary accomplishment. Point has continually pushed the traditional form of the spindle whorl in extraordinary new directions.”

‘Susan Point: Spindle Whorl’ will be on display until May 28.