Life-size wolf in canoe sculpture by Mary Anne Barkhouse unveiled at the Museum of Civilization

September 13, 2013


For immediate release

Gatineau, Quebec, September 13, 2013 —The Canadian Museum of Civilization unveiled a sculpture of a life-size bronze wolf in a copper canoe today, which it commissioned from internationally acclaimed ʹNamgis First Nation artist Mary Anne Barkhouse. The sculpture and its interpretive component were made possible thanks to the generous support of the John and Bonnie Buhler Foundation.

Titled ’namaxsala, which means “to travel in a boat together” in the Kwakwala language, the permanent sculpture is located outside in the lower pond beside the Museum’s Grand Hall. The piece is inspired by a story that the artist learned from her grandfather, Fred Cook, who helped a wolf cross a treacherous stretch of water in a boat. ’namaxsala speaks to Barkhouse’s deep environmental concerns and the need for humankind’s respectful cooperation with the natural world.

A member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, Barkhouse is a descendant of a long line of internationally recognized Kwakwaka’wakw artists, including Ellen Neel, Mungo Martin and Charlie James. “I was fortunate to grow up in a family that had strong connections to land, literally from coast to coast. The adventures that my grandfather had while he was logging or fishing in the Pacific Northwest, though located at a very different point in history, have resonance today for the values that they speak to regarding survival, stewardship, unlikely alliances and independent thought, said Mary Anne Barkhouse.

“We are delighted to have this striking work by Mary Anne Barkhouse as a permanent feature transforming the Museum’s Waterfall Court,” said Mark O’Neill, President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation. “In addition to its inspiring symbolism, this remarkable work draws on the continuity of Kwakwaka’wakw artistic traditions and connects across the generations with the model totem pole inside in the Grand Hall, carved by the artist’s great-great grandfather, Charlie James.”

Barkhouse’s choice of copper, a material long used by Kwakwaka’wakw artists, also connects with her ancestral traditions, while the bronze of the wolf speaks to her contemporary artistic practice.

The commissioning of this new work is in keeping with the Museum of Civilization’s past practices for developing its collection of contemporary Aboriginal art, including works by Bill Reid, Alex Janvier, Daphne Odjig and Shelley Niro. Once the Museum commissioned the work, Curator of Contemporary Canadian Aboriginal Art, Lee-Ann Martin, consulted with Mary Anne Barkhouse about the site of the sculpture and its creative possibilities.

Being no stranger to the arts and its contribution to Canadian heritage, John and Bonnie Buhler of Winnipeg, Manitoba made a major financial contribution to support the commissioning of the sculpture and its interpretive component. “Bonnie and I were simply moved by Mary Anne’s inspiration for ‘namaxsala,” revealed John Buhler at the unveiling. “It’s also a wonderful opportunity to support one of Canada’s foremost national museums and to play a small part in the creation of a work of art that will endure and be enjoyed.”

An award-winning entrepreneur and the retired CEO of Buhler Industries Ltd., John Buhler has given generously to communities in Manitoba since his first success as a manufacturer of farm equipment.

The Canadian Museum of Civilization is the centre for research and public information on the social and human history of the country. Located on the shores of the Ottawa River in Gatineau, Quebec, the Museum is Canada’s largest and most popular cultural institution, attracting over 1.2 million visitors each year. The Museum of Civilization’s principal role is to preserve and promote the heritage of Canada for present and future generations, thereby contributing to the promotion and enhancement of Canadian identity.

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