Small Town Carver in the Big City

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Photo : Teena Martin

It seems like just months ago that I first met Rod Brown, but in truth it has been years. It was the first art show I was curating solo and it was his first attempt at carving salmon. Spirit of the River was a fundraiser for the organization Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition and was designed to celebrate the abundance of our rivers. Rod had just moved to the North and was keen to get involved in work aimed at protecting the health of the watersheds in the North. We chatted a bit on the phone and he told me about his idea. I had no idea who he was or if he was any good so I said, “sure.” Like I said, it was my first show.

I finally met Rod in his hometown of Terrace just days before the exhibit when I collected the two salmon he had done for the show. He had done a fine job. The salmon were realistically carved and life-size and considering that it was his first attempt I was mightily impressed. And of course, it fit perfectly with the theme.

Rod went on to work for a non-profit in Terrace called Skeena Wild Conservation Trust and I was hired to work at SWCC full time a couple of years after I curated the art show for them. Both Rod and I were working on a lot of the same community building intiatives as the two organizations supported each other’s work. It was great to get to know Rod in this context and see his passion for strong communities and engaged decision making.

Photo : Rod Brown

It was during this time that I went to an art opening in Smithers, BC at the Smithers Art Gallery that was a collaboration between several artists. I still remember walking around the corner of the gallery and straight into Rod’s new and improved salmon carvings. I could not believe where he had gone with them. The entire salmon was covered in tiny, intricate details, reminiscent of the movement of water and was set into the overall shape of the life-size salmon. I was impressed with what this guy had been up to.

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$2000 : Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre

It was just this Spring that I witnessed, once again, his next evolution in art. I still worked for Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition and we were collaborating with Artists for the Sacred Headwaters and the Whistler Arts Council to put on a fundraiser art show in Whistler, featuring artists from around BC. For mostly selfish reasons, I had volunteered to be the one to drive the artwork down to Whistler. When Rod’s crate showed up at the office I wasn’t there, but when I got back I could tell that it had been the centre of attention in my absence. I had to see it; so out came the screwdriver and we opened the lid once more. Rod had taken the idea of beautifully intricate designs to a new level. His piece was called Todagin Influence and it depicted a three dimensional Stone Sheep from Todagin Mountain on Tahltan territory. It had a wild, rugged feel to it but the longer you looked the more you could see the gentle beauty and vulnerability of the creature. He had captured something rare: a glimpse into the Stone Sheep itself. I knew I was witnessing an exciting phase in his evolution as an artist.

Later that summer after I had relocated to Vancouver, I was pleasantly surprised to come across a posting on Facebook of Rod’s collaborative show at the Deer Lake Gallery. The opening included a carving demonstration by Rod himself and although I missed it I think it would have been a sight to see. The show will run until this Saturday the 17th of October, 2015 and the gallery hours are 12-4pm. Although I have not seen the show yet, I would recommend getting out to see Rod’s masterpieces in person. It is only a matter of time before his name and his art are recognized as some of the finest in BC. But lucky for me, I already knew it was!

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