Crooked Beak Mask
cedar wood, cedar bark, string, paint, circa 2014
signed, titled and inscribed "Kwa-guilth"
49 x 38 x 11 in, 124.5 x 96.5 x 27.9 cm
Estimate: $8,000 - $12,000 CAD
Sold for: $8,125
Commissioned directly from the Artist by the present Private Collection, Toronto
The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands Estate, Rancho Mirage, Reach for the Sky: Tradition + Inspiration, September 11, 2019 - June 7, 2020
The Hok-Hok, Crooked Beak, and Raven masks are all vital components in performing the Kwakiutl Hamatsa dance, a ritual performance at potlatches. The Hamatsa ritual centres upon a performed narrative, guided by the three bird guises: the Hok-Hok, Crooked Beak, and Raven. Members of the Hamatsa Dance Society dance the three bird-masks during the initiation ceremony of new members. The Hamatsa Dance dramatizes the struggle between good and evil forces. According to mythology, these three bird-monsters reside in the sky and collectively devour humans. The Hok-Hok bird dances first and crushes the victim’s skull; the Crooked Beak second, and eats the victim’s brains; the Raven third and devours the remains. This Hok-Hok is the largest of Stanley’s creations ready to be rigged for dancing in the Big House, measuring over eleven feet in length. While he recognizes that the cannibal-birds are a part of mythological tradition that people shy away from, he prioritizes an authentic representation of his community’s history since, as he states, “We live in the Creator’s world with the Creator’s creations.”
Each figure of the Hamatsa set requires a specific mathematical equation, largely dependent upon the width of the log. As one of the only Northwest Coast artists to do so, Stanley proportionally maps and applies colours in accordance with traditional Kwakiutl customs. He remains faithful to the strict code of traditional colour sequence and compositional form.
Stanley Hunt began crafting this Hamatsa set in 2011 and took him several years to complete. The works were exhibited at Sunnylands, Palm Springs, California (2019-2020). The Hok-Hok, Crooked Beak, and Raven are ready to be rigged for dancing with skulls mounted on each, signifiers of an artist who has danced the Hamatsa. Stanley Hunt is a member of the prestigious Kwakiutl Hamatsa Society and has danced in potlatch ceremonies for the Hunt family.
For the exhibition catalogue of Reach for the Sky: Tradition + Inspiration, at Sunnylands Estate in PDF format, please click here.
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