Artist Gordon Dick and apprentice carver Troy Rata have been working on a new work of art at Ahtsik Native Art Gallery, west of Port Alberni on Pacific Rim Highway.
‘Sky Dancers’, 40 inches in diameter and carved in red cedar, depicts a pair of eagles engaged in a courtship ritual where they lock talons and spiral downwards through the air together.
Lead artist and gallery owner Dick and Rata have been steadily working on the sculpture for three months. The design is Dick’s, and he carved it with Rata’s assistance, Dick explained. The piece was finished on Nov. 3, after the pair overcame several technical and design challenges.
“Every new project is a learning experience,” said Dick, whose artwork shows a strong sense of flow and harmony. ‘Sky Dancers’ is a commissioned piece that is now on its way to Rye, New York.
Although Dick is not actively searching for carving apprentices, he said he will work with someone “as long as it’s a good fit and good energy.” Rata is from Port Alberni and Dick said their collaboration is working well.
“I’ve worked alongside other artists and I’ve worked under other artists such as Tim Paul,” he said.
He has been approached by a First Nations Studies teacher at Alberni District Secondary School and plans to host a class in his gallery later this year.
Even though this latest commission is complete, Dick has been busy. “I have multiple pieces on the go in various stages,” he says. “Some are almost near completion. I work on four to six pieces that people can view (at Ahtsik Gallery).”
Dick has a carving shed in front of his gallery on Pacific Rim Highway, on the way to Tseshaht Market. Even with inclement weather, the protected shed can be a busy place in fall and winter.
“”All my pieces start out at the shelter when I’m roughing them out,” he says. “When it’s adze work, blade work or chisel work I’ll bring it into the gallery. It’s a working gallery,” he explains.
Dick and Rata are happy to discuss possibilities for new commissions such as wall panels, cedar doors, masks, or cast bronze sculptures. Although there is currently a wait list for new carvings by both Dick and Rata, the gallery has a number of ready-to-hang carvings and sterling silver jewelry by artists Erich Glendale, Ray Sim, Mervyn Child, Gus Cook, Doug David, Joe Martin, and Alvin Mack.
“I know each artist I represent and I can stand by the quality of their work,” says Dick. He selects all the pieces on display.
To learn more about the gallery and to get progress updates on the latest carvings visit the gallery’s Facebook page or www.ahtsik.com. Hours in December are “by appointment or by chance,” says Dick. “I am here through the day. People can call or e-mail to confirm timing or availability.”