Nelson Joseph

When I was just a kid playing in my cousins neighborhood, I would often see a mysterious figure of a man emerging from a nearby house. This man was often carrying a bundle wrapped in a flannel cloth, and would walk down the busy street towards town. I knew that this man was Nelson Joseph, he was an artist, a carver, and the bundles that he carried were his works of art, on their way to be sold. It was a mystery to me as a kid of maybe eight years old, that someone could make art as a way of living. I was intrigued, and chose to keep Nelson in my mind as a mystery that my imagination had created. A real living, working artist!

Of course as time went on, I came to know Nelson as a member of our Hupacasath community. We spoke very briefly maybe a couple of times. What I did know of Nelson was his work. I was told that he worked with very basic hand tools. Friends and family collected his carvings, and I saw many rattles, plaques, masks, paddles and jewelry boxes. What I came to appreciate and understand about his work was the immediacy of his carving. His line work and composition were very deliberate, and to my mind, fearless. This work has had a lasting effect on my art practice.

For many years, I have had the notion to seek out, and document the work of the late Nelson Joseph. Now, with the assistance of a grant from FPLCC, this work will be undertaken.

Search and Research will follow the documentation of this important work. This research will culminate in a comprehensive catalogue which will also include interviews of people who knew Nelson and his work. Selected works will be included in a Solo Exhibition which will be hosted by the Alberni Valley Museum in early 2014.


Nelson Joseph carving

Bear Mask
Western Red Cedar

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