The Story of the Forest Spirit
There was a time in our history when our culture and our way of life were under attack and it crippled the spirit of our ancestors. To survive the spirit of our people fled the villages where they once flourished. They sought refuge in the deepest, darkest and most wild parts of the forest. In the forest our spirits found a place that was safe from the negative forces that swept through the villages. For survival our spirits huddled closely together, so close that their bodies became intertwined and it was here in the forest where no man dared to go that they waited for the opportunity to return to the people.
Raven, Eagle, Frog, Wolf and all of the other spirits became one creature. They became one creature that possessed all of the individual qualities of each spirit. This newly formed magical creature spent its time in exile gathering strength. It went about practicing the old ways, the original ways of our people. It protected in its heart the stories and the history of the people, preserving what could have been lost.
Over the years, this magical forest spirit became stronger and stronger. It became more balanced and harmonious with the land and when it had sufficient strength it returned to the villages. The Spirit kept its distance at first, living on the outskirts of the villages. On occasion the Spirit would make itself visible, testing the people to see if they were ready for their spirit to return. Children who saw the Spirit were enthralled by it and neither feared nor ran from it. They knew that the Spirit meant them no harm. They could feel in the Spirit all of their ancestors. The children would talk often of the Spirit. At first their parents thought that the children were making up stories, but over time they began to see changes in the children. Some of the elders began to see that the children had begun practicing the old ways. Soon even the adults began to see and converse with the Spirit. With each encounter the Spirit would give a piece of itself to that person.
The Spirit became weaker but each person that received a piece of spirit became stronger and stronger. And everyday their spirit increased until they were stronger and more powerful than ever before. This was not their original spirit but a new spirit. One that had experienced and retained the knowledge gained from coming together as one.
Our people came to realize that they were not separate from each other, they were not separate from the animals, or the land. Old problems and disagreements were put aside. They understood that they were no longer individual spirits separated by families, clans, and nations. We realized that our power was now dependent on each other, for we are truly all one spirit.
Visual artist, Shawn Hunt, was born in Vancouver Canada in 1975. He is of Heiltsuk, French and Scottish ancestry.
Shawn comes from a family of artists. His father is Bradley Hunt, a prominent Heiltsuk artist with whom Shawn apprenticed for 5 years, learning wood and jewelry carving as well as traditional design. Shawn apprenticed with Coast Salish painter Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun from 2012 to 2015. Shawn has a diploma in studio art from Capilano college as well as a BFA from the University of British Columbia where he majored in sculpture and drawing.
Shawn works with the traditional Northwest Coast design principle known as formline to create abstract, surreal, and sculptural paintings based on ancestral Heiltsuk Cosmology. Depicting creatures both human, and animal; and sometimes mythological, you will find hiding both the positive and negative spaces created. The image is ever changing, moving, morphing, transforming, and shapeshifting.
“I have never felt like I really belonged to any one particular movement, culture, category, or clique. As an artist this has given me an incredible amount of freedom. I don’t feel that my work is conceptual, traditional, artifact or craft. It is neither ancient nor modern. Instead, I feel as though my work has elements of all of these categories. This is a freedom that allows me to distort, subvert, hijack and remix these categories in order to offer new points of view. I want to challenge the viewers’ preconceptions. I like the idea of art being like a catalyst, or a flash point. I think art is most powerful when it poses questions, not when it gives the viewer the answers. My goal is to make the viewer think.” – Shawn Hunt