Born to Jim and Diane Work in Campbell River in 1975, Kwakwaka'wakw artist Clinton Work grew up learning Kwakwaka’wakw stories and preliminary Kwak’wala from Diane Matilpi.
An avid illustrator from childhood, Work began applying his artistic skills to traditional Kwakwaka’wakw form and design in the mid 1990’s. He has apprenticed and collaborated with Cree artist Phil Ashbee, helping to complete a major installation "Salmon Coming Home" at the Nanaimo Port Theatre in July 2000.
In 2007, Work began experimenting as a silversmith, a skill he learned from Saulteaux/Ojibway artist Kelvin Thompson, whose work we also have in our collection. His natural sense of design and unusual motif choices sets his work apart from what is often available.
Work’s masks attract international buyers due to his precision and finishing consistency, one of which involves lightly sanding his masks after painting them to expose the natural grain, rendering an antiqued quality. Well versed in plant technology, Work harvests, cures, prepares and weaves his own cedar bark adornments.
Work has delved into several mediums and has also restored damaged art pieces with impeccable precision. He has created a number of pieces for Copper Moon Gallery since 2004 including our logo design, numerous masks, headdresses, bentwood box designs, drum paintings, woven headbands, and custom jewelry pieces.
CLINTON WORK COLLECTION
Blackfish Panel by Clinton Work
Hamat'sa Society is the most prestigious Secret Society of the Kwakwaka’wakw. Legend speaks of a group of brothers who got lost while hunting, and came upon an ominous house with red smoke rising from its roof. Though the owner of the house was not present, they discovered one of the house posts was a live woman whose legs were planted into the floor. This woman warned them about the owner of the house and told them his name was BaxwbakwalanuksiwE.
BaxwbakwalanuksiwE was a man-eating creature with four cannibal birds. One variation of this legend illustrates BaxwbakwalanuksiwE with blood-sucking mouths all over his body.
In another version of this legend, the brothers tricked BaxwbakwalanuksiwE into a pit, then killed him with hot stones. Through their defeat of this terrible creature, the brothers gained supernatural powers and brought home many incredible treasures, including whistles, masks, and costumes which would later be used in sacred rituals. There is speculation that BaxwbakwalanuksiwE was assisted by an old ogre of a woman, and many believe she may have been Dzunukwa (Wild Woman of the Woods).
Hamat'sa Society is still very active within Kwakwaka’wakw society today
Franz Boas Indian Myths & Legends from the North Pacific Coast of America: A Translation of Franz Boas' 1895 Edition of Indianische Sagen von der Nord-Pacifischen Kuste Amerikas (2006)
Cheryl Shearar Understanding Northwest Coast Art (2000)
Campbell River Museum & Archives