When Bill Reid, one of North America's great artists, died on March 13, 1998, he left behind a legacy of magnificent art that drew deeply on that of his Haida ancestors. His work continues to be exhibited internationally and is in many private and public collections around the world. This book celebrating the artist and his work was first published in 1986. For the updated edition, Doris Shadbolt has written a new chapter covering Reid's last years from 1987 to 1998, including his masterwork, the great bronze sculpture titled The Spirit of Haida Gwaii, as well as the moving details of his ceremonial Haida burial on Haida Gwaii. In a long career, Reid embraced many art forms, driven always by a passion for the well-made, well-crafted object. This impulse, combined with his gradual rediscovery and rekindling of a rich Haida cultural heritage, informed and inspired his development as a visual artist of tremendous power and brilliant accomplishment. Lavishly illustrated with photographs of Bill Reid's major works and events from his life, this new edition features the addition of more than 40 colour photographs.
This biography doubling as a look over the shoulder of a versatile artist and into a whole culture opened new worlds to me.
Bill Reid single-handedly revived an artistic tradition that was on the verge of vanishing, and one whose power of conceptualization and bold stylization is well worth studying by today's designers. This he did with daunting versatility in scale and material, from wooden totem poles to golden rings. A great number of his works are shown in this volume and better yet, discussed, allowing full appreciation of the thought behind the forms. Beyond this, it is Haida art as a whole that is evoked and explained, and I don't think it's possible to finish reading without gaining a fascination for it. Personally my impression of that art went from "tight mess of eyes and teeth" that did nothing to my aesthetic sensibilities to "stunning conceptual stylization of reality" that humbled and challenged my designer nature. Bill Reid's works are not just masterpieces of the medium they were made in, they are cultural artifacts.
This superb book, winner of two awards, may address a niche: specific artisans building a library, or students of ethnic or American Indian cultures. Yet if it got me totally enthused about both the man and the people, it would probably convert anyone who can appreciate ancient artistic traditions.