By Nicole Fitzgerald
Three years ago Jody Broomfield decided to forgo his steady paycheque and dedicate himself to his artwork entirely.
Life was unstable, but in his clear focus his craft grew and was finally recognized when his submission for the Four Host Nations 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games logo was chosen earlier this year.
The Squamish Nation artist was heartened, and a few months later exhausted, as demand for his artwork increases. He is also extremely excited his logo will be featured on Royal Canadian Mint coins — an achievement his coin-collecting father is particularly proud of.
From the throes of a building maintenance job and youth worker, Broomfield steps forward as an internationally-recognized artist, bringing him closer to his culture as well as himself.
"It's opened my eyes," he said of his artistic endeavours. "I walk with a clear mind in life. I get a better understanding of what I was put on this earth for."
Broomfield didn't grow up on the reserve where he currently resides in North Vancouver. Not until 10 years ago, did the now-thirtysomething immerse himself in his land and culture.
"I hadn't been exposed to the artwork until I moved back home," he said. "It wasn’t until then that I was introduced to my culture and practice of my culture — singing, language — that is when I got exposed to my background."
Two of Broomfield's uncles, Jim Paull and David Nahanee, helped carve the Coast Salish artist's way. Broomfield then began serious study after meeting his neighbour, Klatle-Bhi, a respected Kwakwaka'wakw artist.
Carved masks, totems and wood panels followed, incorporating precious metals, shells, cedar bark ropes and tuffs into the sacred art. The old world merged with new as his box of traditional tools, such as chisels, grew to incorporate more modern hardware, such as planers and chainsaws. Whatever his tool of choice, each piece celebrates the beauty and spirit of his Coast Salish heritage.
"Each piece has a certain meaning," he said. "Some masks get inspired by things that happened in your life, during your past or present. Stories go with the panels you are working on."
The story behind the 2010 Winter Games Four Host Nations logo, which will be released as part of the Royal Canadian Mint Vancouver 2010 coins series in February 2008, tells the tale of four nations coming together under the Games banner.
The logo honours four Salish First Nations: Squamish, Musqueam, Lil'wat and Tsleil-Waututh. The logo includes four faces and four feathers within a sacred circle.
"Each face represents a nation," he said. "The four eyes (in the sacred circle) represent ancestors that have passed on before us and watch over us on a daily basis. The feathers represent the four directions to the world. Those four directions welcome the world to Vancouver in 2010."
His art is anything but pocket change. A limited edition run of 800 coins featuring the Four Host Nations logo will be made of 14kt gold. The coins will retail for $390.
Broomfield shows his work primarily in the Lower Mainland, including the Douglas Reynolds Gallery on Granville Street, the Eagle Spirit Gallery on Granville Island and the Inuit Gallery in Gastown. Only one of his works is displayed in Whistler. A wolf transformation mask, a mask that opens three ways with a wolf outside and a human face inside, is displayed at the Path Gallery in Whistler.
Both Broomfield and his father await the coin launch next year. In the meantime, the Capilano reserve resident is keeping busy carving a thunderbird panel for a Vancouver gallery.
"After the logo was launched in February, things have just been amazing," he said. "I got to meet people involved with VANOC, John Furlong, John ‘Jack’ Poole and the honourable Gordon Campbell... There has been more demand for my work. Local galleries are really promoting me. I am considered an internationally-renowned artist now."
An internationally-renowned artist who can't wait to introduce the world to his culture and his art.