Sunday, July 26, 2009

Vancouver, Canada 9

A happy warm evening!

Vacation weather, isn't it? Or going-to-camp weather? 'Bout time to have a doozy of a thunderstorm when this is all done.

When I saw the Danish family at left, I thought of the line from the fun baseball film "Bull Durham" from some years back: "Who dresses you?"

So who says that vacation garb has to coordinate? Or even be flattering? It's a time to not care about that, isn't it? Sure is! And it's a time to take a look at ourselves as others might see us, to not take ourselves so all-fired seriously.

I like the sidwalk sign for the Silver Gallery. They remind us that there are other kinds of rings besides wedding rings. There are all kinds of couples today. And there are "exquisite West Coast Native Artworks." Really? Are the West Coast Natives exquisite? Or are the artworks?
Everything I know about the wood and stone carvings of this area tells me that the symbology and the layout were never crafted purely as works of art. They may have had artistic value to the people and the communities who originally made them, but that was not their primary purpose. They were first and foremost theological statements. They told the people's story and their relationship with, and place in the world of, the Creator.

Only people who know the history, only the elders could say if modern productions are anywhere close to theological. Or theologically correct. I'm not sure if the carvers who make them are that well versed. I hope so. If not, it's quite a sacrilege.
Consider this beautiful carved wooden sea lion made as a bowl or very big dipper. How would the elders from two centuries ago react to the golf balls inside? Would they laugh or cry? Be horrified or chuckle and say, "Nobody has put that in one of them before!" Note that the golf balls also have a Native American logo on them. Hmmmm. . . . Native American golf balls. . . .
How would we feel if somebody were doing "Exquisite Holy Land Artworks", such as laundry racks made of crosses. . . ? How about shish kebab skewers made of crosses? Oh . . . . you're telling me they already exist? There was a good market for them? It's about the economy?
I guess so. I'm all for people having jobs and supporting themselves.
I once made a processional piece for a Native American friend who was ordained as a pastor some years back. A whalebone carver from Shishmaref, AK carved a descending dove (Holy Spirit) called "Transformation". I made the shaft in the shape of a harpoon, the arms of the "cross" supporting the carving in the shape of kayak paddles of two centuries ago. No screws or nails holding it together, only fishing line. I took great pains to be respectful and to not expropriate anything I did not understand.
Her people loved it, but not so much for what it looked like as the story that came with it.
I hope our religious symbols never stop telling us a story, never simply become "exquisite artworks" that we buy on vacation--only. I hope we actually live with them. Daily.
Got time for one or two more Canada posts? Then we'll move on. Stay cool!
Pastor Roger

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