Ahead of the Curves, the latest sculpture by Nanoose Bay artist Shane Wilson, will sell for an estimated $320,000. That’s nearly the average sale price for a single-family home in the Parksville/Qualicum Beach area.
“It’s probably the most beautiful I’ve done,” he said of the piece, which is equivalently priced to his other work based on time and material. “I want this to appear simple and sublime, but it’s really quite complex.”
The sculpture is a pair of moose antlers, mounted side-by-side, carved into a curvy, inter-lapping design that flows between the two pieces. “Your eyes can take different paths,” Wilson said. “You get lost in the endless curve.”
While the piece’s design is continuously refined, Ahead of the Curves is a calculated work that took shape long before Wilson picked up his electric Dremel tools. “I can’t experiment,” he said. “I can only take things away. You have to have things imagined beforehand.”
This forethought is particularly important, Wilson said, when working with the multiple planes of moose antlers. “The designs don’t always read as you intend,” he said. “It’s (about) playing with the curves and distortions so that the piece looks right from every direction.”
Wilson estimates that the entire sculpture will take 700 hours over two years to finish, of which he’s completed 400 hours since Nov. 2013.
Ahead of the Curves is the first in a series of major personal carvings, including one on a mammoth tusk, that Wilson has envisioned for the past 20 years while busying himself with mainly commissioned work.
“They were always on the back burner,” he said. “I thought, ‘If I don’t take the time now, I might never do it.'”
To do such a large piece without a prior financial security is “a bit of a departure,” he admits. And to ensure this “significant investment” of time and effort doesn’t go to waste, Wilson recently partnered with The Artist Project (TAP) to market the work.
TAP is a Yukon-based organization founded by Susan Stanley and her husband Allan Nixon in 2014 to represent and manage Northern artists whose work inspires them.
“It’s rather a selfish project,” said Stanley, who previously worked for CBC radio. “If I believe in the art, I think others will believe in it too.”
TAP provides services like selling and promoting particular pieces of art, creating business plans, helping with accounting and representing artists at events like gallery openings and receptions. In Wilson’s case, TAP will also produce an interactive website that details the evolution of Ahead of the Curves from concept to completion in order to connect him with the public and a potential buyer.
“Artists are in so much need of representation,” Stanley said. “It’s too labour intensive for many artists (to do art and promotions).” She also added that many artists have a hard time promoting themselves.
Stanley said she and Nixon are also excited to work with Wilson because, like the other artists they represent, his work inspires “some sort of change.”
For Wilson, that change has to do with sustainability. “I work within the bounds of nature,” he said, adding that the natural materials he uses — which range from horn and antler to ivory and teeth — are not harvested illegally or purposely for his art. Some were naturally shed, others were found on animal remains and some were the byproduct of food hunting.
Wilson said he also strives for his art to be sustainable in the sense that it is timeless and will be considered beautiful by generations to come.
“It’s not gimacky,” he said. “I’m building value back into art.”
Although Wilson and his family left the Yukon for B.C. in 2007, he still considers himself a Northern artist. “I lived in the North most of my life,” he said, adding that his carving was “born” in that part of Canada.
Wilson started carving in 1993 while he was working as an Anglican minister in small Northern towns. “My life has been concerned with meaning and sharing meaning,” he said, adding that he left the priesthood after 10 years in part due to the fact he found himself no longer believing that meaning comes “from outside oneself.”
“We (humans) create meaning,” he said. “My art is about sharing the meaning I found within.”
And when Ahead of the Curves is finished sometime next year, the artist hopes someone will connect with that meaning enough to take his sculpture home.