Artist Klehwetua Rodney Sayers is speaking at VIU on Nov. 21. (Photo courtesy Emily Luce)

Port Alberni artist reflects on traditional approaches to carving at VIU

Klehwetua Rodney Sayers’s recent work was a Salt Spring National Art Prize finalist

Vancouver Island University’s Visiting Artists and Designers Series is welcoming Port Alberni-based Hupacasath artist Klehwetua Rodney Sayers to discuss his practice and his recent work.

“I’m just basically going to pose a lot of questions about the way my work has been perceived in, I guess, an arena that has a very rigid idea of what tradition and traditional art work is and should look like and its role in contemporary art.” Sayers said.

Pamela Speight,VIU art professor and visiting artists series coordinator, said they invited Sayers because he is an accomplished mid-Island artist. The last time he displayed his work in Nanaimo was in the first few months of 2017 when he and partner Emily Luce had a piece in the Nanaimo Art Gallery’s Landfall and Departure: Prologue group show.

“We feel that [Sayers] is an excellent choice as a speaker at the university, as an inspiration and role model for our students and for the larger Nanaimo community to get to know the work of this extraordinary artist,” Speight said in an e-mail.

Sayers’s recent work, Serpent GT, was a Salt Spring National Art Prize finalist. The piece is a sea serpent carved in the Nuu-chah-nulth tradition but painted bright orange and yellow, commenting on the aesthetics of hot rods.

“Right now there’s a theme in my work that I’m reflecting on the hot rodding tradition and how it influenced me as a young man and a child growing up in Port Alberni, where street rods were very prominent,” he said.

Sayers said that while he has a body of work that is “strictly in a traditional approach,” he also has a body of work that’s “just fun.”

“I’m making canoe panels that are painted like hot rods, and for me that’s just pure enjoyment,” he said.

WHAT’S ON … Klehwetua Rodney Sayers artist talk at VIU Bldg. 355, Room 203, on Thursday, Nov. 21 at 4:30 p.m. Event is free and open to the public.

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