Ahoy ahoy! Happy Hallowe’en!
We had another panel last class, this time on Emily Carr. The articles we read about Carr focused mostly on the fact that her work is often found to be incredibly controversial. She has evolved to this mythical sort of figure in Canadian Literature and art. But now, many people have begun to question the relationship that Carr had with the Native peoples along the Northwest coast of BC. It was previously stated that she had this intense relationship with the different groups, but how can this be so? She painted so many different groups and didn’t really seem to focus much on aspects of their culture, rather than just treating them as she would scenery.
I found this video online, it is a Heritage Minute from histori.ca (just copy the link into a new browser window)
In this clip, the narrator talks about the Native people consuming the life of Emily Carr. The narrative from her says that she wants to see from the eyes of the totem, and mentions the mythic eye of the forest. She says that she wants to express her country, and she loves it. It says that she was in the first rank of Canadian painters before her death. This minute long clip contains what the creators of these minutes evidently thought would be most effective in order to portray Carr in 60 seconds to the general public. Is it accurate? Or does it fall under the idea of portraying Carr in this “god-like” way, a fate that has appeared to befall the Group of Seven as well. again, I return to the idea of context.
Context is something that comes up again and again. It is important to remember that Emily Carr was not an ethnographer. In order to place the images into the correct context, we must remember this. Her paintings are not anthropologic works, though they are recordings of a culture. They are interpretations of what she saw in front of her. To say that Carr saw the Native culture as one that was dying is again, something you have to put into the context of when she was working and paintings. Many Native rituals and practices had been banned, and the fact that traditional Native villages were falling into disrepair because of this was a reality. To say she had a close affinity with these Native peoples is a stretch, but she did record what she saw happening, and it was a part of history. Her style is quite interpretive, but are we just trying to find something bad to say? Sometimes, critics need to stop looking for meanings.