Totem Mother, Kitwancool

Chapter Twenty-four        Mosquito

Totem Mother, Kitwancool, oil on canvas, c1928, 109.7 x 69.7 cm. Location: Vancouver Art Gallery, VAG 42.3.20. © Vancouver Art Gallery

She wanted to paint the pole she'd seen farthest up river near the muskeg thick with mosquitoes and fetid with skunk cabbage...

To render motherhood in wood, the carver had exaggerated the mouth, the source of lullaby and love, into a smile that pushed up the cheeks above it. In reality a smile couldn't stretch the width of a face, but the exaggeration dramatized the figure's joy. The hands resting lightly on top of the child's head and cupping him from below were out of proportion, smaller than the width of her smile, as if to suggest gentleness. All that she'd seen in France was here in Kitwancool. Distortion for expression--she'd almost lost sight of it.