February 8, 2014

Phil Gray 'Shaman and His Helper' Mask

There is a long tradition of shaman-themed art within the Northwest Coast market. Regalia and functional objects associated with shamanism and the acts of healing and spiritual mediating have long existed within cultures along the West Coast, and current artworks created for the market are based on traditional practices. From sculptural soulcatchers (tubular implements used to suck sickness from a patient) to embellished rattles (used to ward off evil spirits), many items associated with shamanism appear as non-functional artworks, as a sort of homage to deep-seated rituals and ceremonies. 

Phil Gray's Shaman and His Helper Mask

Tsimshian/Cree artist Phil Gray recently brought us an exceptional red cedar mask titled Shaman and His Helper. At first glance, this may appear to be a humanoid or supernatural figure of some kind. In fact, this mask represents a shaman and octopus transformation. The octopus is associated with shamanism due to its ability to change shape and colour. The octopus is also a crest within the Tsimshian Eagle clan. The nose of the shaman has metamorphosed into the beak of an octopus, and an allusion to the octopus' tentacles can be seen in the four textured spirals on the sides of the mask. The division that Phil has created between the smooth human elements of the mask and the carefully textured octopus elements of the mask is truly remarkable. This minute attention to detail is one of the reasons Phil's work is always in such high demand.

The Textured Areas Represent the Octopus Helper

This mask measures 16" x 12" x 8 1/2" and is available for $3,400.00 CAD. Phil also accepts custom orders through Lattimer Gallery.


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