Ian Reid's 'Natural Beauty' Mask

By Alex Dawkins
Posted in News, on January 09, 2017

Heiltsuk artist Ian Reid recently brought us a mask, whose symbolism is as potent as its artistry.


Ian writes the following about this stunning piece:

"This mask depicts two different times in the history of the Heiltsuk people.

The left side of the mask is carved, but not painted. It is naked. This side of the mask represents a recent time in the history of the Heiltsuk people when it was illegal to feast or potlatch, illegal to speak our language, illegal to practice the ways of our ancestors. This side of the mask represents the feeling in the hearts of Heiltsuk people through time, and represents a dark time for the Heiltsuk people and the country of Canada.

The right side of the mask is carved and painted with the traditional colors of Heiltsuk, and represents a more vibrant time in our history. This side of the mask depicts a change in the way that the Heiltsuk are able to freely express who they are as the first people of their territory. This side of the mask resembles the lift of the potlatch ban, the closing of residential schools, and the healing of the people Heiltsuk people."

Ian Reid's crests are Eagle and Killerwhale. He often signs his pieces with his Heiltsuk name Nusi, meaning "Full Moon." Many of Ian's pieces are inspired by cultural knowledge handed down to him from his elders. His main mentor has been his great aunt, Mary Hunt, one of the last matriarchs of the Heiltsuk Nation. Ian has carved under the guidance of respected Kwakwaka'wakw artist Simon Dick. He has also been dancing since he was young, and often dances with the Gwawina Dancers. In June of 2008, Ian danced at the University of British Columbia's Chan Centre for the Performing Arts to accompany a special screening of Edward Curtis' landmark film In the Land of the Head Hunters. Also in 2008, Ian was appointed to be Project Manager for the Waglisla Big House that was constructed between 2008-2009 in Bella Bella, BC. Ian was actively involved in every phase of the project, from the original conception to material selection and construction. In 2009, Ian was one of twenty-three artists included in the Continuum: Vision and Creativity on the Northwest Coast exhibition at the Bill Reid Gallery in Vancouver, BC.