In his long career Bill Reid (1920-1998) embraced many art forms and was driven by a passion for the well-crafted object. In addition to creating jewelry, he wrote and illustrated books, pioneered the development of silk-screen art prints among the Indians of the Northwest Coast, among other endeavors. This revised biography includes a new chapter by the author. 193 illustrations, 49 in color.
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I had no reason to pick up my copy of Bill Reid when I did, having never heard of the man and not being particularly interested in the art of the Northwest Coast Indians. But somehow after I first glimpsed it, it nagged at me until I gave in. This biography doubling as a look over the shoulder of a versatile artist and into a whole culture opened new worlds to me.Bill Reid single-handedly revived an artistic tradition that was on the verge of vanishing, and one whose power of conceptualization and bold stylization is well worth studying by today's designers. This he did with daunting versatility in scale and material, from wooden totem poles to golden rings. A great number of his works are shown in this volume and better yet, discussed, allowing full appreciation of the thought behind the forms. Beyond this, it is Haida art as a whole that is evoked and explained, and I don't think it's possible to finish reading without gaining a fascination for it. Personally my impression of that art went from "tight mess of eyes and teeth" that did nothing to my aesthetic sensibilities to "stunning conceptual stylization of reality" that humbled and challenged my designer nature. Bill Reid's works are not just masterpieces of the medium they were made in, they are cultural artifacts. This superb book, winner of two awards, may address a niche: specific artisans building a library, or students of ethnic or American Indian cultures. Yet if it got me totally enthused about both the man and the people, it would probably convert anyone who can appreciate ancient artistic traditions.