Large canvases with an intense, heartfelt message about our spiritual connection to the planet and all our fellow travellers on it are part of a new exhibition at the Coastal Carvings art gallery in Coombs.
The Dodems features a series of work with a spiritual undercurrent in each piece painted by well known Vancouver Island artist IceBear.
The artist hopes his series of related pieces will open the door to people’s imagination, start discussions and perhaps even help find answers to questions not yet thought about.
IceBear was at the gallery May 9 for an open house where he explained the inspiration behind his explosive pieces that resemble images you would find in a totem pole.
IceBear’s rich cultural heritage provides the grounding that nourishes his creative spirit and he drew on his Native American heritage when he started his first dodem canvas.
He said once he got going he realized there was no way he could do just one.
“I knew I would need to do more and a variation of the theme is expressed in these paintings.”
That theme stems from the aboriginal world view in which people belong to a certain dodem.
He explained that it is often through the relationship with the dodem that people learn of the roles that they can play in their daily lives and how to carry out those roles.
IceBear also pointed out that the word totem actually came from dodem.
“As the word dodem came across Canada it evolved into totem,” he explained.
He said dodems are considered gifts that are given to us by our ancestors and are an integral part of native heritage.
The artist who has been sculpting and painting for more than 50 years said his dodem is IceBear and agreed it is a demanding dodem that he tries to live up to.
He said people who view his dodem canvases are challenged not only to appreciate the skill and virtuosity that created the images, but also to discover a personal emotional and intellectual response.
“That is where we get our strength from in that moment of time in life when we feel weak not strong and we call upon it to give us strength,” he said.
He said when the average person stands in front of his work they see things merging and they are using their own imagination.
“Within that imagination is what speaks to people and it invokes something else that is deeper. It lays somewhere deep in our subconscious and it rises to the surface and art helps to bring that out.”
The large canvases with intense colours and sweeping brush strokes are painted in many layers which IceBear said creates an ever changing perception.
“During different parts of the day it actually changes colour and different images emerge.”
IceBear, who now calls Crofton, home is a status member of the Chippewas of Nawash (Ojibway Nation).
As a teenager he attended the Toronto Artist Workshop and then went to Sheridan College and the Ontario College of Art.
He worked for 25 years in advertising and communications in Toronto and Vancouver before moving to the West Coast permanently.
IceBear eventually gave life to the visions that filled his imagination and his paintings and sculptures have been shown internationally in Europe and the U.S.
He was part of an exhibit at the Biennale of Florence and in Austria. That journey opened doors and found him new friends and fans from many parts of the world. In fact his Dodem series will eventually be going to Alberta, Toronto and Tokyo.