‘Dogfish Mother’ by Robert Davidson – First Nations Northwest Coast Haida Art presented by DaVic Gallery of Native Canadian Arts.
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Condition: Fine condition. Print is framed with triple acid free mat. Frame is metallic and black in color.
Frame: Please note that for safety reasons, print can be shipped framed without glass within Canada only. Shipments outside Canada will include print and mat with both frame and glass removed. Alternatively, glass may be replaced with resistant acrylic transparent glass that is safe for shipping at additional cost. Please inquire.
Description by Artist: No description by artist found.
Notes from DaVic Gallery: ‘Dogfish Mother‘ – Transformation is at the heart of Haida art and supernatural power. Supernatural beings and ancestors possessing special powers are often depicted with the attributes of two or more beings, indicating their ability to transcend ordinary limitations. Dogfish is an important crest and mythic being among the Haida of B.C.’s Queen Charlotte Islands. It is a favorite subject of the world-renowned Haida artists Robert Davidson and Bill Reid. The classical Haida representation of Dogfish may well be the most ingenious exercise in abstraction in the whole Haida bestiary. Though at first it might seem impossible to relate the broad face and long forehead of the traditional Dogfish crest to the narrow-bodied, sleek little shark of the same name, every step in the design is logically and carefully thought out, and all of the important anatomical features of the fish are captured in the symbolic form.
The Dogfish is equipped with a dangerous pair of sharp bony spikes, protruding each just ahead of the Dogfish’s two dorsal fins. Not considered appealing as food, Dogfish were not a valued commodity. In fact, Dogfish are a great nuisance to fishermen seeking Salmon, Halibut, and Cod: they have a voracious appetite for bait and sandpaper rough skin suited for severing fishing lines. It is a testament to the Dogfish’s wild ominous grace and power that such a troublesome and worthless creature could become an honored family crest. Other sharks sometimes also appear in Northwest Coast art and legend. The Nuu-chah-nulth peoples of Western Vancouver Island feared giant, malicious shark monsters who lived in deep holes under cliffs and liked to eat canoes. Named “Dogfish Mothers”, they were likely inspired by the great white sharks that sometimes hunt Sea Lions in B.C.’s waters.
The motif features a high domed head with a front facing personified face. This “Dogfish-spirit” face is stylized with a down-turned mouth, often with sharp pointed teeth, gill slits on each side of the mouth, and vertical pupils. On the domed “forehead” there are two circles representing nostrils and sometimes a further set of gills. This naturalistic underside view of the fish’s long tapering head and nose makes a double headed design depicting both shark and spirit. The body is finished with the double set of fins behind spines, and asymmetrical tail flukes.
Dogfish Woman is another powerful figure in the pantheon of beings of the sea. The dogfish is a small variety of shark that inhabits the waters of Haida Gwaii. Dogfish Woman is a crest belonging to many of the Haida clans, and is related to a story of a woman ancestor who could transform herself into a dogfish. It is in this form that she enters into a whole other realm of experience, the undersea world. She has most of the identifying characteristics of the dogfish crest itself, but also has a beak for her nose that curves into her mouth – a symbol of transformation powers. She is also often shown with a disk shaped labret of the type high ranking Haida women wore inserted in their lower lip. The story of Dogfish Woman tells that she was carried off by a Dogfish and became one of its kind, but able to transform back again to a human. She became the ancestor of the families who now claim the Dogfish as their crest.
Persistence & strength. Innate leadership. The Dogfish Woman is the most prominent Shark in Haida legends. It’s considered a family crest of Haida royalty. All other Sharks are referred to as “Dogfish Mother’. In addition to the Shark-like features, the Dogfish Woman wears a labret in her lower lip which is traditionally worn by aristocratic Haida women. The Dogfish is one of the most powerful crests that is associated with feminine qualities. As well, it enters the realm of supernatural beings.