The Gastown Galleries, Vancouver

Just how different the neighborhood around our hotel is from much of the housing here becomes really clear as we cross the Cambie Bridge. As we swoop over the river into downtown, we are afforded with a stunning view of the scores of residential towers that line False Creek. Now THAT is density!


False Creek, originally uploaded by gailatlarge.com.

After winding our way through downtown’s mass of highrises, the human-scale brick buildings and streets of Gastown are a treat.

We start at Inuit Gallery simply because it is the first on our list that we come across in the misty rain.

The last person we actually knew here was Kim, but she has long since left. Still I am a little surprised at how long it takes the staff to realize that we are former customers. Actually, they may not have ever figured it out had I not found a piece that intrigued me.

The piece that catches my eye is ceramic – a traditional hunting image beautifully sculpted in a less traditional medium. I love the feel of the piece, the way the eye is drawn up from the hunter’s well-grounded boots, past his hands holding the seal, to his serious face.

It is lovely but, of course, it would be a budgetary stretch for me.

But my questions about the piece give us an entry into the storage area, where we can see pieces that are not on display, including some lovely, lovely masks for a Simon Dick show (elaborately carved and exquisitely painted masks) that begins the day after we return home. We don’t often get up here to see the art we love, so it is a real treat to see these beautiful pieces in real life and not just illustrated in an exhibition catalogue or on the web.

We linger a long time in the warmth of the gallery as a steady rain falls outside the large windows. After all, this is a very good place to be.

Our next stop is Spirit Wrester Gallery. This is probably our favorite gallery, because they have done so much to encourage and develop artists, because they seem to carry an edgier mix of merchandise, and because we find the owners quite entertaining. The gallery carries the same mix of traditional pieces as the other good galleries here, but they also encourage exchange and collaboration between local artists and Maori artists from New Zealand. The results of that artistic experiment are fascinating.

As we enter the gallery, my eye is immediately drawn to a large Inuit carving of a figure holding an Inuit-style slingshot. It is enchanting.

I don’t have long to admire it though, because soon we are in back in the storage/packing, photography room with Derek.

This is why I enjoy coming here so much. As usual, Derek is overflowing with excitement about the artists he represents and their art. He hands us exquisite pieces to examine, while pointing out the special features of each and relating one story after another.

Not being as knowledgeable as Lane, I can’t always follow the stories he tells, but I understand enough to be interested. And at the same time, he is handing me a variety of amazing works by artists young and old. It’s like being in art heaven!

After looking at a lot of pieces, Lane expresses interest in one of a group of rather abstract Maori dancers carved from jade.

They are beautiful, but I keep thinking about that carved Inuit boy and his sling standing near the gallery entrance. It is such a lovely, wistful image in the most perfect and beautiful stone.

In the end, and after much discussion and a great deal of patience on Derek’s part, it is the boy, carved by Mattiusie Iyaituk, that is being shipped home to us.

Next Post: Along the Shore
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