Artwork by Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun,  Landscape, Spruce Pine Beetle Kill

L.P. Yuxweluptun
Landscape, Spruce Pine Beetle Kill

acrylic on linen
signed and dated 2008 lower right; unframed
72.5 x 49.25 ins ( 184.2 x 125.1 cms )

Auction Estimate: $45,000.00$35,000.00 - $45,000.00

Price Realized $78,000.00
Sale date: November 22nd 2021

Buschlen-Mowatt Fine Arts, Vancouver
Private Collection, Ottawa
Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun (b. Kamloops B.C., 1957) is a Vancouver- based artist of Coast Salish and Okanagan descent. He is known internationally as one of the most prolific, provocative, and outspoken Indigenous artists of the last forty years. The painting “Landscape, Spruce Pine Beetle Kill” (2008) contains many of the elements employed by Yuxweluptun to articulate, through an Indigenous lens, the impact of colonial paradigms that have led to the desecration of land and, in turn, the lives of Indigenous peoples.

The work features a lone standing spruce amid a clear-cut landscape. It recalls Emily Carr’s (1871-1945) “Scorned as Timber, Beloved of the Sky”, a 1935 painting of a lone pine that, having survived industrial logging, reaches for the sky as a symbol of freedom and resistance. The work appears to beg the question, “What is left behind?” By taking the recording of history into his own hands, Yuxweluptun seeks to emancipate and reclaim the land.

Yuxweluptun grew up in a politically active family in the city of Vancouver, a centuries old cultural contact zone that developed on unceded Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh territories. Graduating with an honour’s degree in painting from the Emily Carr College of Art and Design in 1983, Yuxweluptun quickly made a name for himself through art making that gave voice to his views of the land and the relations within it. His work responds to the context and conditions in which he has lived, calling on a complex mix of signifiers and stories to draw attention to critical environmental and cultural issues that provoke much needed dialogue. In 1992, I selected him to participate in the landmark exhibition “Indigena: Contemporary Native Perspectives” at the Canadian Museum of Civilization (now the Canadian Museum of History). That same year he was also included in “Land, Spirit Power: First Nations” at the National Gallery (1992), another crucial exhibition that questioned systemic hierarchies in contemporary art.

Logging and the practices of the forest industry have been a huge source of contention for Indigenous peoples in British Columbia. Historically, non-native residents of the province have believed that forestry pays the bills, bringing in billions in revenue. Anything that has threatened this source of economic prosperity has been forcefully resisted. The Spruce Beetle is one such threat. It is one of several types of bark beetle that are native to the North American northwest and can be destructive to forests. It lives in wind-thrown, over-mature, or weakened trees that normally occur at low densities in a healthy forest. Conditions such as global warming, as well as the practices of logging itself, have increased outbreaks of bark beetle infestation in recent decades. In the early 2000s millions of hectares of forests became infested, killing over 50% of the pine “volume.” Responses to controlling the beetles have included harvesting entire spruce stands, felling large diameter spruce to attract and trap the beetles at ground level, and burning infested material.

Speaking to this environmental reality, “Landscape, Spruce Pine Beetle Kill” (2008) depicts a lone reddish-brown tree standing amid the clear- cut land. The artist has filled it with life, appearing as a last vestige of a once thriving forest that could provide Indigenous communities with wooden forms for drums, masks, tools and homes. Below it, a crazed looking White man in a business suit yields a larger-than-life chainsaw with monstrous blue teeth. Behind him an industrial feller buncher grasps the massive trunk that has been severed from its stump. All around, the exposed ground is strangely scattered with draped, carpet-like forms that slither across its undulations—each colourfully inhabited by formline patterns that, at times, appear to be creatures. In the receding distance, stands of brown forest define the expanse of the logging and beyond them, a snow filled valley draws attention to the colder regions of the north. The clouds in the sky above float by, animated by the faces of reclining creatures, perhaps otters floating on the surface of an ethereal lake. Evidence of a spirited world is everywhere, appearing both in the intact landscape and in the severed and slippery forms that have resulted from the logger’s interference. Articulated through an Indigenous lens, Yuxweluptun’s testimony nonetheless speaks to critical issues that have come to concern humanity across the globe.

We extend our thanks to Dr. Gerald McMaster, Director and professor at Wapatah Centre for Indigenous Visual Knowledge, OCAD University, and author of “Iljuwas Bill Reid: Life and Work” for Art Canada Institute, for contributing the preceding essay.
A prolific and provocative Indigenous artist, Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun is a Vancouver based contemporary artist of Coast Salish and Okanagan descent. “Landscape, Spruce Pine Beetle Kill” contains many of the elements employed by Yuxweluptun to articulate, through an Indigenous lens, the impact of colonial paradigms that have led to the desecration of land and, in turn, the lives of Indigenous peoples. This critical painting that speaks to humanity across the globe exceeded the pre-sale estimate to sell for $78,000, setting an auction record for this remarkable artist.

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Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun

Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun is a Cowichan/Syilx First Nations contemporary artist from British Columbia. He was born in Kamloops in 1957 to a father belonging to the Cowichan Tribes, a Coast Salish First Nation, and a Sylix mother, part of the Okanagan Nation Alliance. Yuxweluptun’s upbringing provided an acute awareness of the issues facing Aboriginal peoples. His parents were very politically active, encouraging their son to pursue a career in politics. He instead chose to create paintings, drawings, and assemblages that address many pressing issues, regarding land claims, damaging assimilationist policies, and environmental degradation.

Yuxweluptun enrolled at the Emily Carr College of Art and Design in the late 1970s and graduated in 1983 with an honours degree in painting. Yuxweluptun is among the most overtly critical artists practicing in Canada today. Yuxweluptun's strategy is to document and promote change in contemporary Indigenous history in large-scale paintings, using Coast Salish cosmology, Northwest Coast formal design elements, and the Western landscape tradition. His work incorporates traditional elements from Northwest First Nations art, as well as evocations of the Canadian landscape painting tradition derived from the Group of Seven. The figures in his paintings are not necessarily representations of real people—or specific Northwest coast beings or ceremonies—but instead comment on the way in which Native identity has been constructed from outside perspectives.