Lot # 031
Post-War & Contemporary Art Live auction

William Ronald (Bill) Reid
1920 - 1998 Canadian

Gold Transformation Pendant and Necklace, Dogfish Woman Design with detachable Female Mask
22 karat gold sculpture 1983
13 x 5 1/2 x 1 in  33 x 14 x 2.5cm

Provenance:
Equinox Gallery, Vancouver
Acquired from the above by the present Private Collection, Vancouver, 1984

Literature:
Karen Duffek, Bill Reid: Beyond the Essential Form, UBC Museum of Anthropology, 1986, pages 10, 11 and 53, and the 1982 boxwood pendant entitled Dogfish Woman reproduced pages 35 and 52
Doris Shadbolt, Bill Reid, 1986, page 153, reproduced pages 162, 163 and 166, and the 1982 boxwood carving entitled “Transformation” Pendant with detachable “mask,” Dogfish Woman reproduced pages 50 and 51

In 1982, Bill Reid carved a Dogfish Woman pendant for his wife Martine from boxwood, and in 1983, he cast this extraordinary gold pendant from this original work. In the 1986 UBC Museum of Anthropology catalogue, Karen Duffek praised the pendant design as “one of Reid’s most unique explorations of ancient imagery.” Exquisite in its detail and complexity, it took the form of a flat disc with an overhanging mask that is removable. The disc, carved in low relief, is the traditionally stylized Haida Dogfish shark form, inscrutable and ferocious, with domed forehead, gill slits, sharp teeth and downturned mouth. Around it curves the Dogfish body, including tiny human figures that represent vertebrae. Overtop of the central disc is a removable mask, a representation of the mythical Dogfish Woman.

The theme of transformation is integral to Haida art. The Dogfish Woman mask depicts a supernatural shaman who takes her power from the Dogfish spirit, who in Haida myth could transform from shark to woman and back again. On her face are the gill slits of the shark, she has a beak-like nose and a mouth with a labret - the mark of a high-born Haida woman - and on her head is a crown-like form. Her face is strong and expressive - she gazes outward into the unknown, smiling as though possessed by an ecstatic vision.

Doris Shadbolt wrote, “Reid’s early attraction to the dogfish was probably an admiration for its ‘classical representation’ which, he says, ‘may well be the most ingenious exercise in abstraction in the whole Haida bestiary. ’ ” The dogfish was also a favourite theme of his grandfather’s - legendary carver Charles Edenshaw. In the powerful imagery of transformation in this pendant, Reid taps into the realm of the past, and the Haida people’s interactions with the mysterious ocean and its creatures, from which these symbolic forms were created.

Reid was a visionary artist who reawakened the glorious past of Haida artists through a contemporary lens. He was also an extraordinary technician, using refined and sophisticated techniques in the production of his jewellery, and his work in gold is exquisite. In 1970, he began using the lost-wax method. This work was cast from the boxwood original using a silicone rubber mold and the lost-wax process, and is a unique work. Adding to the luxuriant quality of the cast 22 karat gold pendant, the chain is composed of segments of gold. Reid’s precise use of line and command of space within the confines of the small circular disc and the mask are masterful. Reid stated that every structure “must have for every thrust a counter thrust, then each object becomes a frozen universe, filled with latent energy…Where form touches form, the line is compressed, and the tension almost reaches the breaking point, before it is released in another broad flowing curve…All is containment and control, and yet always there seems to be an effort to escape.”

Reid had a deeply felt connection with his ancestors, but he also had a modern vision and produced new interpretations of the old forms. Not only does this work embody the transformative myth of Dogfish Woman, but it also shows Reid’s own transformation journey from traditional to contemporary and back again. In this superlative gold pendant, Reid both recreates and renews the myth of the supernatural power of Dogfish Woman.

The diameter of the pendant is 3 3/8 inches, and the overall length is 13 inches. The weight of the gold is 200 grams.

This work is included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Reid's work being compiled by Dr. Martine Reid, Researcher and Honourary Chair, Bill Reid Foundation.

All prices are in Canadian Dollars.

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