Artist’s inspiration in First Nation past

Snuneymuxw stories and traditions provide Noel Brown with multiple avenues for his art

The work of Snuneymuxw First Nation artist Noel Brown is on display at the Nanaimo Museum until Sept. 3. The exhibit features Brown’s art and jewelry.

The work of Snuneymuxw First Nation artist Noel Brown is on display at the Nanaimo Museum until Sept. 3. The exhibit features Brown’s art and jewelry.

Many people have seen Noel Brown’s art around Nanaimo and may not have realized it.

From street banners, carvings at Departure Bay ferry terminal or the large print hanging at the recently opened cruise ship terminal, Brown is an accomplished Snuneymuxw First Nation artist in several media.

His latest work is exhibited daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Nanaimo Museum, 100 Museum Way, in the Port of Nanaimo Centre until Sept. 3.

Inspiration for Brown’s work comes from Snuneymuxw stories and traditions, his uncle James Christopher Lewis, his paternal grandmother, Ethel Brown, and band elders.

While interested in art from an early age, Brown did not take it up as a profession until 1995.

One of his first commissions was by the Nanaimo Museum to provide art for the Elders’ Elders exhibition. He also designed the ‘Circle of Life’ symbol at the museum.

For Brown, art is an opportunity to explore and celebrate his Snuneymuxw heritage.

While he in works in several mediums, he salvages wood from beaches or mountains to create carvings inspired by songs and stories as told to him by his grandmother and the elders.

The sea is also an important part of Brown’s life.

Working on his crab boat provides opportunities for reflection, a source of inspiration and a place to assemble his thoughts and ideas.

Brown comes from a family of woodworkers as grandfathers on both sides of his family were accomplished carvers. His uncles and cousins are also artists.

He lives in Nanaimo with his wife Tammy, sons Marvin, Paddy and Ritchie and their nephew James.

Family is important for Brown, who said he couldn’t do anything without the support of his family, especially his wife.

They have brought up their children following traditional Snuneymuxw beliefs and instilled in them the value of discipline, ethics, honesty, integrity and social justice.

Brown attempts to be true to traditional patterns and techniques and produces art that is true to his beliefs.

Nicknamed “Natural”, he takes care of everything and gives the impression that nothing is hard.

He approaches all aspects of his life with energy, good spirit and humour.

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