UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Art as negotiation: the reciprocal construction of meanings in the argillite carvings of Charles Edenshaw Ransom, Kelly Marie


The argillite carvings of Haida artist Tahaygen (Charles Edenshaw) can be viewed as a site of interaction and negotiation between the producer — a Native artist who lived during a time of tremendous cultural upheaval and change — and the consumer — curio collectors, anthropologists, and museum collectors who were members of the dominant Western society. This thesis examines the intercultural exchange of various messages between producer and consumer taking place within the object-site, with specific reference to three examples of Edenshaw’s argillite work. A discussion of the historical circumstances surrounding the production and consumption of argillite carvings is first presented to suggest the various different significations that the intercultural art object can hold for both artist and buyer. A model for analyzing the exchange of messages in the object is then explained, and applied to three examples of Edenshaw’s argillite carvings. By considering the perspectives of artist and collector during this process of interchange, I attempt to explain how meanings can be reciprocally constructed as part of a struggle, on the parts of producer and consumer, to assert both individual and cultural identities, needs and desires. The intercultural object, in light of this reciprocal process, becomes a politically-charged arena for the negotiation and renegotiation of individual, societal and cultural positioning.

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