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On the Artful Path: Susan Point’s Spindle Whorls

Glass. Print. Sculpture. These are just three of the many mediums for which renowned Musqueam artist Susan Point is known. Credited for being a major player in the revival of Coast Salish art throughout the last 30 years, Point uses the traditional shape and concept of the spindle whorl as a basis for many of her works. Comprised of a small wooden disk with a pole in the centre, this tool was first used by Salish women to prepare wool used for woven garments and ceremonial blankets; it would often be decorated with images, perhaps of a personal or spiritual nature.

In these three contemporary works by Susan Point from the collections, the spindle whorl motif is used in three entirely different ways, showing the progression of Point’s style from the early 1990s into the 2000s. According to Point, “While my work is rooted in Coast Salish traditional art, I create my contemporary works so that anyone, at any age, can relate to my imagery and form their own opinions, assumptions or interpretations.”

On the Artful Path is a series that features contemporary art from the MOA Collections.

Timeless Journey

Created in 1994, this sculpture representing a spindle whorl is assembled of glass and wood, and is engraved with a salmon pattern in the glass. Salmon are said to be capable of assuming human form and are often associated with twins in Coast Salish culture.

Date made: 1994
MOA Collection: Nbz835 a-c
Photo by: Jessica Bushey
View on MOACAT online

Impressions Salish Wolf

This wall sculpture features a cast-paper
spindle-whorl design mounted on a large, circular, red-cedar panel. Susan Point describes the image as depicting a Salish wolf: a great hunter and sometimes spirit power, who also represents family and togetherness.

Date made: 2003
MOA Collection: 3309/1
Photo by: Alina Ilyasova
View on MOACAT online

Scanned Salmon

This mesmerizing serigraph features an image of salmon on the circular form of a spindle whorl, set within a square field. Using varying widths of black lines printed on white paper, Susan Point plays with the optical effects of positive and negative space to create a sense of movement. How many salmon can you spot?

Date made: 2008
MOA Collection: 3309/12
Photo by: Alina Ilyasova
View on MOACAT online