At first glance, Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun's work reflects his Coast Salish and Okanagan heritage. Vibrant colours combine with cultural references in the forms of masks, animals and totems.

But on deeper inspection it tells stories of colonialism, corporate greed and pollution — just to name a few.

"You're looking at the landscape that is just butchered and destroyed and the shaman is standing there going, 'I can help you, I can heal your soul. But all the things you're looking at, I can't fix that,'" Yuxweluptun said, describing his painting Shaman Comes to Fix. It currently hangs in Ottawa's National Gallery.

A retrospective of his work, called Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun: Unceded Territories, is currently on display at Vancouver's Museum of Anthropology. The opening was the biggest in the museum's history, with over 2,000 people in attendance.

Yuxweluptun has been painting his environmental concerns now for over 40 years, and his work has been compared to that of surrealist Salvador Dali.

Artist Website

He cites clear cutting, climate change and oil pipelines as inspiration for the themes in his work.

"As an artist, our job description is the world," he said. "And these are things that the world has to [deal] with."

Lately, Yuxweluptun has been painting what he called "super predators" in paintings like Fish Farmers They Have Sea Lice and Christy Clark and the Kinder Morgan Go-Go Girls.

"And that's my job… is to talk to the world, to enlighten the world, to entertain the world, to make them happy, to make them sad, to make them think," he said.

"That's what I like to do, is to think in existential ways to allow people to say, 'Yeah, we can change, we can make this a better world.' And that takes time."


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