Kwaguilth culture, golf meld in serigraphs

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Canadian artist's art reflects his love of the game

SAN JUAN ISLAND, Wash. - Richard Hunt's cultural art - carvings, clothing, jewelry, serigraphs - reflect the ceremonies, dances, icons and stories of his Kwaguilth heritage.

Hunt, one of Canada's living treasures, also uses his art to reflect his love of golf.

Hunt, 55, has produced golf-related serigraphs in which his heritage melds with his sense of humor and his love of the game. Of the events, people and traditions depicted in Northwest cultural art, golf is a relatively modern subject. Yet Hunt's golf serigraphs are done in traditionally correct form.

For example, ''A Birdie'' represents Hunt's 150-yard shot that struck a bird on the green during a benefit golf tournament for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Victoria, British Columbia.

In the background is an eagle, representing a mountain; the eagle is the main crest of the Kwaguilth people of Fort Rupert, British Columbia, where Hunt was born. In the foreground is a bird, trying to regain its balance after being hit with the ball. The number ''3'' on the ball, which rolled close enough to the hole for a birdie putt, represents the third year of the tournament.

For the young bird, the fairway and the green, Hunt used pink and green hues not often seen in Northwest cultural art.

''They are one of a kind,'' Lee Brooks said of Hunt's golf-related serigraphs. Brooks owns Arctic Raven Gallery on San Juan Island, the leading Northwest cultural art gallery between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia.

''They're not what most people expect - they're fun and Richard's sense of humor shows through them.''

In his serigraphs, Hunt pays tribute to his favorite sport and has some fun at his own expense.

''Bullwinkle'' represents the time Hunt missed a putt and got a 10 on the hole.

''I was so embarrassed and mad that I broke my putter across my knee,'' Hunt said. ''You feel like a clown when you make a shot like that so I have the whirlybird on top of my hat. Even the moose is laughing at me. If you look at his horns, he has 10 antlers.

''In my culture, we have a dance called the 'Noohlmahl' - Fool Dancer - which represents a tribe from the north. The dancers have come by to watch me putt and they are all laughing their heads off because they can't believe it has taken me 10 shots to make the putt. The sky was blue, but it has turned to red because I am mad that I missed this shot. If you look at the moose and the people, they are the same skin tone because in my culture we believe animals are people reincarnated.''

''Hole-in-One'' is more celebratory, representing the hole-in-one Hunt made at Cedar Hill Golf Club in Victoria. Hunt had planned to do a serigraph about a bogey, but that changed after he sank a shot from the fourth tee.

''To the left is Rob McTavish and Alf Williams and me with my hands up in the air once I realized the ball had gone in the hole,'' Hunt said. ''The person on the right is Glenn Turko in spirit because he didn't play with us that day ... The design on the ball is a design Rob and I drew on my chalkboard the night before I got the hole-in-one.''

If the serigraphs are light-hearted, they are also valuable to collectors of golf memorabilia - the serigraphs are not readily available on the market. Each edition consists of 180 signed and numbered prints; all trial copies and printing stencils are destroyed. Hunt donates signed copies of the prints to live auctions at celebrity golf classics in which he plays. He hosts his own golf classic in Victoria, which has raised more than $100,000 for Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

The golf course has provided inspiration for more traditional works by Hunt as well.

Of his serigraph, ''Two Loons'' (1995), Hunt said on his Web site: ''I was out golfing at Cordova Bay Golf Course one evening and I noticed a beautiful orange sky. I tried to imagine the color while I was painting this design, because it reminded me of 'the red sky at night.'''

About Richard Hunt

Hunt's Kwaguilth name, Gwe-la-yo-gwe-la-gya-lis, means ''a man that travels and wherever he goes, he potlatchs.'' Hunt gives in various ways: through art, dance, speaking, as well as contributions to charitable efforts (since 1987, he has designed the sweatshirts for the Royal Victoria Marathon, which benefits local charities).

He comes from a family of internationally respected artists, which includes his father, Henry Hunt, and his grandfather, Mungo Martin.

Richard Hunt began carving with his father at age 13. At 21, he became chief carver in the Thunderbird Park carving program at the Royal British Columbia Museum; he served in that capacity for 12 years. He later resigned to begin a career as a freelance artist. For more than 20 years, his work has included poles, serigraphs, carvings, jewelry and a line of clothing decorated with his designs.

He has received the Order of British Columbia and the Order of Canada - the highest awards an artist can receive in British Columbia and Canada, respectively.

He and his wife, Sandra, live in Victoria. They have two daughters, Sarah and Emily.

For more information about Hunt's work, visit www.richardhunt.com.

Richard Walker is a correspondent reporting from San Juan Island, Wash. Contact him at rmwalker@rockisland.com.

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