Douglas & McIntyre
The Transforming Image

Book details:

April 2007
ISBN 978-1-55365-262-5
Paperback - Trade
10 3/4" x 9"
304 pages
Art ART000000
$50.00 CAD

Douglas & McIntyre

The Transforming Image

Painted Arts of Northwest Coast First Nations

Photographic detective work led to the discovery of formerly hidden masterpieces of First Nations painting on wood at the University of British Columbia. When museum curator Bill McLennan uncovered images beneath weathered surfaces using infrare

Struck by the dynamic character of a nineteenth-century Northwest Coast painted chest that he had walked past many times at the museum where he worked, Bill McLennan decided to photograph it for closer study. Infrared film produced surprising results. Painted areas that had been obscured with a patina of oils and soot could now be seen clearly, as the complete painting emerged from beneath the weathered surface. With this find, the Image Recovery Project was born, whose object was to develop a database of infrared photographs of historical Northwest Coast paintings.

The Transforming Image brings together some of the most intriguing images, many revealed for the first time in over a hundred years. Karen Duffek's text adds new insights derived from the project's detective work, linking painted images to communities, histories, and the hands of individual painters.

The book arose from the need of current generations to gain access to the creative achievements of their ancestors and to build on the cultural knowledge that the old paintings could reveal. Ravenous collecting of painted works, coupled with depopulation and the suppression of Native culture, eventually left only a remnant of this rich material heritage in British Columbia. Now scattered throughout the world in museums and private collections are the bentwood storage boxes, chests, drums and other objects that were the 'canvas' of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Northwest Coast painters. Only gradually are some of these properties being returned to the people whose ancestors made and used them. The repatriation of images through photography offers at least a partial solution and brings these exquisite works to a wider audience as well.

Bill McLennan is a Projects Manager and Curator for the UBC Museum of Anthropology. In 1980, he originated the Image Recovery Project from which this book developed.

Karen Duffek is a writer and curator with an interest in Northwest Coast art and representation. She is the author of Bill Reid: Beyond the Essential Form.

About the Authors

Karen Duffek

Karen Duffek is an award-winning writer whose publications include Bill Reid: Beyond the Essential Form and The Transforming Image: Painted Arts of Northwest ...

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Bill McLennan

Bill McLennan is projects manager at the University of British Columbia Museum of Anthroplogy. He has curated Northwest Coast art shows and served as a ...

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