Emily Carr House
House of All Sorts
Beacon Hill Park
At the foot of Douglas Street and west of Cook Street just south of downtown Victoria lies the 200-acre Beacon Hill Park, a beloved haunt of Emily Carr, a place instrumental in shaping her early love for nature, particularly trees and birds.
In her journal, Hundreds and Thousands, she wrote: "Dear Mother Earth! I think I have always specially belonged to you. I have loved from babyhood to roll upon you, to lie with my face pressed right down on to you in my sorrows. I love the look of you and the smell of you and the feel of you."* And this recollection of her childhood spent in the Park: "I can remember when the park was full of woods and wild flowers, and owls hooted and there were lady-slippers and wild lilies and the lakes were swampy pools with thick scraggly growth 'round and in them."**
Varieties of trees native to Beacon Hill Park are Garry oak, arbutus, Douglas-fir, red cedar, and maple. Birds nesting here or passing on annual migrations are bald eagles, herons, Canada geese and peacocks. Emily's favorite parts of the Park were the virgin stands of fir and the overlook onto the Strait of Juan de Fuca. She would certainly have known of the petroglyphs and clamsell middens of aboriginal dwellers of this tract of land inhabited as early as 14,000 years ago. The world's tallest free-standing totem pole (128 feet), created by Kwakwaka'wakw carver Mungo Martin in 1956 is here in the Park.
Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia
Here is a fabulous collection of First Nations material including totem poles, feast dishes, basketry, tools, bent wood boxes, masks--all beautifully displayed in a purpose-built museum using traditional Northwest Coast post and beam construction. Fifteen-meter-high windows take the eye outdoors to two Haida Big Houses, ten full-scale Haida, Gitksan, and Nisga'a poles, two carved house posts and two contemporary welcome figures, all overlooking the sea.
The museum's entire
collection, vast though it is, is available for perusal. Some actual totems Carr painted
are here, including Totem Mother, Kitwancool. A nine-foot Dzunukwa feast dish similar
to what appears in The Forest Lover is a particularly startling piece.
Ross Bay Cemetery
St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church, Squamish Mission Reserve, North Vancouver
424 West Esplanade, North Vancouver
U'mista Cultural Centre, Alert Bay
The U'mista Cultural Centre strives to ensure the continued survival of the unique cultural heritage
of the Kwakwaka'wakw First Nations in and around Alert Bay on the British Columbia Coast.
The opening of the U'mista Cultural Centre in 1980 marked the return of the artifacts taken during the potlatch
prohibition which are now being exhibited to record the cultural, artistic, and
historical value to the Kwakwaka'wakw, or the Kwak'wala speaking people.
First Nations Villages in British Columbia
Emily painted in thirty Native villages. See her work set against
historic photographs from an exhibiton
"To the Totem Forests: Emily Carr and Contemporaries Interpret Coastal Villages."
This site includes her own commentary.
Mimkwamlis (aka Meem Quam Leese, or Mimquimlees), Village Island
Located on Village Island, at the mouth of Knights Inlet, between the north
east coast of Vancouver Island and the mainland, the Mamalilikala band
of the Kwakwaka'wakw people have inhabited this site for centuries.
Here Emily came to polatches, and painted the village
and its welcome figures many times. The island, which was the setting for Chapter Twenty-two
of The Forest Lover, is all but deserted now, except for its
Native guardian, Thomas Sewid, who keeps watch over its remaining totems. Through his
efforts at sharing his culture and history, and by bringing people to Mimkwamlis,
they come to understand the rich heritage that this coastline gave rise to.
Sitka National Monument, Alaska
Thunderbird Park, Victoria
Adjacent to the Royal BC Museum at the corner of Douglas and Belleville Streets is a small park which began to preserve and erect totem poles in 1944, one year before Emily died. Now there are thirteen poles, house posts and grave figures along with a recreated ceremonial Big House erected in 1954, and a carving studio.
Stanley Park, Vancouver
Queen Charlotte Islands
Of Skedans on the Queen Charlotte Islands, Carr wrote: "No matter how drunken their tilt,
the Haida poles never lost their dignity. They looked sadder, perhaps, when they bowed
forward and more stern when they tipped back. They were bleached to a pinkish silver colour
and cracked by the sun, but nothing could make them mean or poor, because the Indians had
put strong thought into them and had believed sincerely in what they were trying to express."****
Various outfitters take visitors to Haida village sites aboard sailing craft leaving from Skidegate, as Emily did. Particularly notable is the village of Ninstiints at the southernmost tip of the archipelago, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site with two dozen poles, erect, leaning and fallen. They would have thrilled Emily had she been able to see them. Walking in a rain forest there, one can understand the awe she felt at the density of growth and the exquisite beauty of life forms native to the islands.
Known as the City of Totems, Duncan, north of Victoria on Trans-Canada Highway 1, has a strong First Nations history and contemporary culture. Forty-one totem poles set around the town and representing several styles are linked by a self-guided tour. At the Native Heritage Centre, contemporary carvers work and interact with visitors; and theatrical presentations, and a feast and legends evening are given.
ART GALLERIES AND MUSEUMS
These are given roughly in descending order from the museum which houses the largest number of Emily Carr works on display to the smallest number. Even though you may not be visiting these cities, some of these museums have virtual galleries on line by which you can view Carr's paintings.
Vancouver Art Gallery
Royal British Columbia Museum and BC Archives
National Gallery of Canada
Art Gallery of Greater Victoria
Art collector and dealer Max Stern owned a great many of Carr's paintings, including some
of her French work. The current status of the collection is always changing.
McMichael Canadian Art Collection
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Telephone: (514) 285-1600
Art Gallery of Ontario
Maltwood Art Museum and Gallery, University of Victoria
Edmonton Art Gallery
Three works by Carr are in the permanent collection.
Art Gallery of Hamilton
This museum has one painting, Sunshine and Tumult.
Seattle Art Museum
Virtual Museum Canada is a collection of 262 Carr paintings from many museums and galleries.
* Carr, Emily, Hundreds and Thousands: The Journals of Emily Carr. Toronto/Vancouver: Clarke, Irwin and Company, 1966, p. 101.
** Ibid., p. 211.
*** Ibid., page unknown.
**** Carr, Emily. Klee Wyck. Toronto/Vancouver: Clarke, Irwin and Company, 1941.