By Sam Krizan

Dawn of the Raven People

The visible space spins in unison with it’s predecessor and in the imagination. Filled with birds, fish, and animals, layered and moving sometimes in concert with humans, at other times in opposition, to suggest and maintain Nature in balance.

Carving character known as the Sea Chief
Sdaang, Tsuu HL’Kyaan Q’ustaan - number Two, Little Frog

Does that describe the art of James Crawford? Is that an adequate definition for understanding the essentials of Kristy Crawford’s paintings? Their work at the Image Studio Café lays out the multi-universe choices in which art exists, particularly when these artists purposefully challenge assumptions. In carvings and prints a different, and new, reveal happens. Their vision may be confrontational, but it is not cloaked in cultural banalities. It does present both the mystery of Creation, and their take on contemporary life from their unique perspectives.

James and Kristy are Haida artists living in James Bay. Although they share life together, with baby Laken and daughter Addison, they are individual artists who forward their own creative points of view in traditional mediums that support their concepts. James carves images in wood, some representational, and faux functional, and makes lino-prints. Kristy – Ang K’aadiiuus, carves portrait masks and paints.

James tells of his experiences and the motivation behind his expression to share the oral traditions, stories, as a visual language within the known environment, as a tribute to animals, nature and the people.

In the gallery setting their work complements one another, in some cases even extends the others’ idea, a hint of collaboration perhaps.

At the heart of any genuine aesthetic response are sensations that haven’t any rational explanation yet somehow manage to enrich our lives. It’s apparent that their art doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is embedded in an undulating reef of, among a vast number of things, religion, community, entertainment, and social movements.

“Yet while we are in art’s thrall we are lifted out of a mundane context, and given a [temporary] visa to a less ordinary dimension. This might be the magical space where our existential burden is momentarily lifted, and where we can surf a wave of pure perceptual pleasure. Isn’t this what art is after all, that perfect vehicle for the transportation of aesthetic values, ugly or beautiful?”*

When work has been made that delights or challenges our aesthetic and sensory receptors, it is called art. The work of James Crawford and Ang K'aadiiuus Crawford fits that criteria. 

* From: Wild Ducks Flying Backwards, The Short Writings of Tom Robbins

All photos of artwork courtesy of James and Kristy Crawford.

Photo of the artists by S. Krizan