The works of Alert Bay carver

Cranmer’s work on display

He was a talented Alert Bay carver and painter who inspired generations of Native artists

Special to the Gazette

He was a talented Alert Bay carver and painter who inspired generations of Native artists, but Doug Cranmer’s considerable contributions are largely unrecognized.

That’s about to change.

The works of Cranmer, who died in 2006 just one year shy of turning 80, is about to be put on display at the University of British Columbia’s Audain Gallery Museum of Anthropology  in an exhibit titled: Kesu’: The Art and Life of Doug Cranmer.

Northwest Coast Kwakwaka’wakw art is renowned for its flamboyant, energetic, and colorful carving and painting and Cranmer — an early player in the global commercial art market, and one of the first Native artists in British Columbia to own his own gallery — was among the leading practitioners.

Experts have described his style as understated, elegant, and fresh, and his work quickly found an international following in the 1960s.

The eldest of nine children, Cranmer was born to Daniel and Agnes Cranmer in Alert Bay, BC, but also spent time along the ‘Namgis (Nimpkish) river and in T’salqwadi, the Port Hardy reserve, with his maternal grandmother Abaya Sarah Smith (Hunt) and her husband, Mungo Martin

At 10 months of age, he received his everyday name, Kesu’  — which means “Wealth being carved” —  and later, like most men of his generation, he began his working life as a fisherman and, later, a logger.

Cranmer credited Mungo Martin with providing his only artistic educational experiences, although he never formally apprenticed with anyone.

Between 1958 and 1961, Cranmer worked with Bill Reid on the replication of six totem poles, one monumental carving, and two Haida-style houses for the Museum of Anthropology. It was at this time that the Alert Bay native decided to be a full-time carver.

From 1962 to 1967, he had his own gallery, The Talking Stick, in Vancouver and by the early 1960s, he was well established as an independent artist and was producing major sculptural works for both a local and international clientele.

His totem poles — measuring from 20- to 45-ft in height — model house fronts and canoes  are in public and private collections in Canada, Spain, Germany, England, New Zealand, Japan and the United States.

In the mid-1970s, Cranmer launched a series of 48 abstract paintings on mahogany plywood that challenged the most daring innovations attempted by his traditional and contemporary mentors.

In the mid 1970s, Cranmer returned home to Alert Bay to teach local Kwakwaka’wakw youth to design and carve so they could participate in the construction of the U’mista Cultural Centre, which opened Nov. 1, 1980.

Doug continued to work with students on such major commissions as replicating and restoring the Wa’kas pole and house front for the Canadian Museum of Civilization’s Grand Hall in 1989, and creating the wooden structures for the Folklife pavilion at Expo ’86 in Vancouver.

In 1986 and 1993, he was hired as artistic designer for the set and props of the theatrical performances “Spirit Lodge” at Expo ’86, and “Mystery Lodge” at Knotts Berry Farm theme park in California. In 1999, Cranmer oversaw the reconstruction of the Alert Bay Big House and selected the appropriate logs for the massive beams to carve replica house posts, and design the house front.

Institutions that hold his artwork include the Canadian Museum of Civilization, Royal Ontario Museum, Glenbow Museum, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Chicago Field Museum, Royal British Columbia Museum and the UBC Museum of Anthropology.

The exhibit — that captures the artist’s personality, his paradoxes, his range of work, and his profound influence on generations of Northwest Coast artists — opens March 16 and runs until mid-September.

 

Just Posted

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Tier 3 Bantam Championships

“The packed arena and electricity within was fantastic.”

Port Hardy RCMP issues warning about recent overdose

“Our primary concern is public safety. We are urging the public to be aware of what is circulating.”

Port Hardy RCMP looking for volunteers who are interested in public safety

“The volunteer program will include community and crime prevention programs”

Suspicious fire in Alert Bay burns two homes, spreads to nearby bush

Police say underage suspects have been identified

VIDEO: North Island Bantam Eagles tie Dawson Creek Canucks in front of massive hometown crowd in Port Hardy

The Tier 3 Bantam Championships continued in style last night at the Don Cruickshank Memorial Arena.

Stolen Bentley spotted going wrong way down highway found in Summerland

The car has been recorded going the wrong way on the Coquihalla, found two days later

Fire crews battle large blaze at Courtenay hostel

Courtenay Fire Chief Don Bardonnex said nobody was injured

1,300 cruise ship passengers rescued by helicopter amid storm off Norway’s coast

Rescue teams with helicopters and boats were sent to evacuate the cruise ship under extremely difficult circumstances

B.C. university to offer first graduate program on mindfulness in Canada

University of the Fraser Valley says the mostly-online program focuses on self-care and well being

Province announces $18.6 million for B.C. Search and Rescue

The funding, spread over three years, to pay for operations, equipment, and training

Late-season wave of the flu makes its round in B.C.

BC Centre for Disease Control reported 50 per cent jump in flu cases in first weeks of March

Tofino’s housing crisis causing some to seek shelter at the local hospital

Tofino’s housing crisis is pushing the town’s ‘hidden homeless’ population into the forefront.

Sentencing judge in Broncos crash calls for carnage on highways to end

Judge Inez Cardinal sentenced Jaskirat Singh Sidhu to eight years

2 fires in Victoria caused by cigarettes prompts warning from deputy fire chief

Two separate fires caused by cigarette butts were avoidable

Most Read