Kwakiutl artist Stan Hunt has been busy carving two 17-foot totem poles for the new Coast Guard logistics depot building across the bay at Port Hardy.
However, Hunt does not carve the poles on his own, he works alongside two other local Native sculptors, Mervyn Child and Ray Dickie.
“Pretty much for every totem pole I’ve made here, I’ve had Mervyn with me, and I wanted to make sure we also had a young and involved artist, and that’s Ray,” he said. declared. “He always wanted to do this and he puts in a lot of effort and a lot of time.”
When asked to comment, Child said he started carving at the age of 15 with acclaimed Kwakiutl artist Calvin Hunt, and got involved in carving these two totems when “Uncle Stan” hired him to come and help him. .
“It’s rewarding, and it’s also a challenge because his sculptural technique is so different from working with Calvin for so many years and doing my own thing,” Child said, “but the end result speaks for itself. -same.”
As for Hunt, he noted that he had been fascinated by the art of sculpture since his beginnings at the age of 20.
“I started carving with my dad at Thunderbird Park in Victoria, knew nothing about it, but helped him with five totems,” he said, noting that his dad, Henry Hunt Sr. , and his brother, Tony Hunt Sr., were his two main influences at the start of a career that now spans 47 years.
In fact, you can trace Hunt’s carving lineage back to the legendary artist Kwakwaka’wakw Mungo Martin. Hunt noted that her mother was actually adopted by Martin in a ceremony in the Big House.
When asked how many totem poles he thinks he has carved over the years, Hunt laughed and replied “that’s a really good question, we were actually trying to figure this out a while ago.”
He knew for sure, however, that only 10 years ago he had carved the largest totem pole in his entire career, which measured 42 feet 10 inches.
The pole currently resides in Buenos Aires, Argentina, at Plaza Canada. Other works of art he created over the years can be found all over the world, including even a castle in Scotland.
Hunt was also responsible for all of the Indigenous artwork that was created for the new Port Hardy Airport. “We wanted the airport to have museum-quality exhibits, and I think that happened,” he said, stating that the airport and the coast guard both contacted him to represent the traditional territory of the Kwakiutl First Nation, adding that totem poles are “monuments to our people and where we come from”.
Hunt and his two-man team began carving the posts in January and have been carving the logs ever since.
The two logs actually came from sorting the arid lands of Port McNeill.
“I love these guys, I want them to be mentioned,” he said, before telling a story of how one of the two poles was made from the very first log that he went over there to watch.
Regarding the designs being engraved, he said he wanted both poles to be fully dedicated to the ocean to represent the coast guard.
The one being carved has a sea crow on top with a frog coming down from its chest to its knees, the middle has a sea bear biting into a halibut, and the base has a sisuytl (two-headed sea serpent ), with a head extending to the back of the post.
The one that’s already painted has a sea eagle on top, a killer whale in the middle, and a sea monster for the base.
Hunt added that these designs all go back in time through generations of Kwakiutl history.
All in all, carving the posts has been “a great experience,” said Hunt, before commending Child and Dickie for all of their help. “It’s been a long road, and they’ve both been so dedicated to it. “
As to whether the rumors are true that these two poles will mean his retirement, Hunt was quick to say he was going to continue carving, “just maybe not totems,” he said with a laugh. .