By Alex Dawkins
Posted in News, on January 24, 2016
Heiltsuk artist Dean Hunt recently brought us two small yellow cedar sculptures that demonstrate why he is one of the most exciting young artists in the Northwest Coast art market right now.
The first is simply titled Whale but it is far from a typical Orca representation. Measuring 15 1/2" x 13" x 4 1/4", this compact sculpture is composed of abstract elements that can be interpreted as representing aspects of the whale: an eye, a blow hole, a dorsal fin, and a pectoral fin. A portion of the back is carved too, with a form that represents the tail flukes. A customer here at Lattimer Gallery stated that they saw a Raven in this piece, and this is one of the strengths of abstraction: everyone sees something different.
The second sculpture is a panel titled Young Tsonokwa, and it features the Wild Woman of the Woods in a puerile state. The mythical Wild Woman figure is usually portrayed as strong and threatening, but she is calm and almost playful in this elegant panel. This piece measures 18 1/2" x 16" x 2" and really pops against a white wall. Tsonokwa’s most important role was that of bringer of wealth and good fortune. Along with the treasures, the inside of her house contained magical Sisiutl house beams which were another indication of her importance. One story from the traditions suggests that the wealth acquired through the gifts of the Tsonokwa provided the basis for the very first Winter Ceremony and potlatch.
Dean is from a family of artists including his father, Bradley Hunt, and his brother, Shawn Hunt. He is from the Eagle clan and was included in the Bill Reid Gallery's Continuum: Vision and Creativity on the Northwest Coast exhibition in 2009. In 2011, one of his masks was featured in Vancouver Art Gallery's exhibition Shore, Forest, and Beyond: Art from the Audain Collection. In early 2014, another one of Dean's masks was featured in Satellite Gallery's Cindy Sherman Meets Dzunukwa exhibition. Dean takes great care with every piece that he creates, and is quickly becoming one of the most accomplished Heiltsuk artists working today.