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Bill Reid: The Making of an Indian Paperback – September 14, 2004

4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Editorial Reviews


“In Bill Reid: The Making of an Indian, Tippett presents considerable evidence that Reid spent much of his life perplexed by who he was, never at ease as an Indian, but never quite satisfied to be an urbane white man either…. We know, thanks to Tippett’s dogged research for this book, that he did not single-handedly rescue Northwest coast art from oblivion. But what he did do was introduce the concept that native artists might command important commissions and consort with important patrons.”
The Vancouver Sun; Times-Colonist (Victoria)

“The book’s great strength is Tippett’s extensive archival research. She has found important family records, many of Reid’s letters, and an early radio documentary…. All of us are therefore in her debt.”
The National Post

“Tippett’s writing is exceptionally crisp, and she keeps an academic’s tight rein on the material, sticking with the facts of Reid’s life.”
Quill & Quire

"There is enough inherent melodrama in is story to render his creative-cultural saga brutally sentimental, but Tippett wisely avoids this temptation."
Quill and Quire, Dec 2003

“A scrupulously even-handed tight-wire act…. This is engaging, hard stuff, fairly asked and fairly considered.”
Toronto Star

From the Inside Flap

Part biography, part art history -- a thoroughly engaging look at one man's life and his phenomenal influence on the world of contemporary art.

Bill Reid was at the forefront of the modern-day renaissance of Northwest Coast Native art; but his art, and his life, was not without controversy. Like the raven -- the trickster and principal figure in countless Haida myths -- Bill Reid reinvented himself several times over. Born to a partly Haida mother and a father of German and Scottish descent, his public persona as a Haida Indian seems to have been as much a product of journalists, art patrons, museum curators and others in the non-Native establishment as of Bill Reid himself. It is clear that Reid's art arose from the tension that existed between his Native and white artistic perceptions.

Award-winning biographer and cultural historian Maria Tippett became intrigued by this enigmatic figure who referred to his own early works as "artefakes," yet to this day continues to inspire new generations of Northwest Coast artists, including Robert Davidson and Jim Hart. But she questions whether Reid's status as the architect of contemporary Native art is fair and accurate, given that artists such as Mungo Martin had been keeping the tradition alive since the beginning of the twentieth century. Most controversially, she explores how Reid brought a sensibility formed through his white heritage to the reinvention of Native art.

By asking difficult questions about Reid's life and work, and by analyzing the works of other Native artists since the beginning of the twentieth century, Tippet gives the reader the defining portrait of Bill Reid -- one of Canada's most enigmatic and beloved artists.

Bill Reid's work can be found in private and public art galleries and museums all over the world. The Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia houses the famous The Raven and The First Men and many smaller masterworks. The Spirit of Haida Gwaii, a monumental bronze sculpture over four metres high, is on display at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C. The British Museum, the Musée de l'Homme in Paris and the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa also hold impressive examples of the work of this extraordinary and imaginative artist.

From the Hardcover edition.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Canada (September 14, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679311947
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679311942
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,286,402 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Karen A. Lebens on August 4, 2012
Format: Paperback
I can recommend this book with reservations. It presents a lot of information about Bill Reid in a well written manner but it does have some serious shortcomings. It reminds me of Perfect Rigor in that way, that it's worth having for the information but it can be irritating at the same time. The author is not an artist herself and very obviously has little depth of knowledge of the art she is describing. This is more of a social history but a social history of an important artist cannot avoid the art. She overstates the extent to which Haida art was continued in the interval between the death of Charles Edenshaw and the arrival of Bill Holm and Bill Reid on the scene. It made me wonder if she had actually looked at anything produced in that time period, since the differences are quite clear. She understates and denigrates the contributions of non- native artists ( common reverse racism in Canada) and relies on gossip from just a few sources for her account of some of Reid's major works. I have heard gossip from direct sources too, that is not found here, and some of it paints quite a different picture of some sources she accepts uncritically. I disagree totally with her (IMHO academic) position that Reid was accepted as he was because he was non-threatening and acceptable to whites. The art speaks for him and no one else has done monumental pieces with his combination of a complete understanding of traditional forms coupled with a technical facility from the larger culture. It's like saying we appreciate the David because Michelangelo was in tight with the princes in Florence. So take this book for what it is, a lot of information about Bill Reid's life and times. Sooner or later someone with a deep understanding of the art will write the real biography.Read more ›
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