Whitehorse artist Brian Walker and his son, Justin Smith, were commissioned to design and construct the Whitehorse 2020 Arctic Winter Games Cauldron.
Brian Walker is a prolific and experienced metalwork artist who has focused primarily on copper for the past 25 years. This collaboration is an opportunity to share his knowledge with his son. Justin is a past participant of the Arctic Winter Games and now is able to contribute back to the games through the creation of this sculpture.
The Cauldron is built out of heavy gauge copper with large copper rivets. The artists cut and formed large copper sheets into four copper shields that surround the cauldron and its central flame in a circle. The copper shields are known as Tinaa’ in Tlingit culture. The artists created the cauldron at their workshop.
Walker says the use of copper goes back at least 1,500 years in the Yukon, with traditions and stories that are important particularly to Yukon First Narions. He says over time designs culminated in creation of the Tinaa’, commonly called a “copper”, and thought to represent an ancient form of human being with head, shoulders, backbone and ribs. These coppers large and small came to represent wealth – the wealth that is humanity itself, especially children. Another connection with wealth is that copper is thought to be a reflection of the flesh of salmon – the wealth of food and sustenance.
In the cauldron, each Tinaa’ has a unique face that transitions from eyes closed to eyes open. The four expressions represented are dreaming, awakening, awareness and joy. These capture the developmental process of discovery and learning that young people experience.
Through this sculpture Brian and Justin hope to convey the importance of investing in and nurturing youth because they are our wealth and our future.
BACKGROUND – BRIAN’S EARLIER DESCRIPTION OF PROJECT
Brian says, “The material that has been my main focus artistically for 25 years is copper. With copper’s long history of use in the Yukon going back at least 1500 years. There are traditions and stories about copper that are important especially Yukon First Nations.
A design developed among First Nations overtime that culminated in the creation of what is commonly called a “copper” thought to represent an ancient form of human being with head, shoulders, backbone and ribs. These coppers large and small came to represent wealth – the wealth that is humanity itself especially children. Another connection with wealth is that copper is thought to be a reflection of the flesh of salmon – the wealth of food and sustenance.
To create this cauldron I will use heavy gauge copper with large copper rivets. It will weigh 35-40 lbs. I have all the necessary materials and tools at my large workshop on the long lake road. I am open to visits from AWG organizers before and during the creation of this piece. “