Coast Salish carver Luke Marston explores Portuguese roots for Stanley Park sculpture
It’s been a long four and a half years for Luke Marston. The Coast Salish master carver is finally breaking ground on Tuesday (June 24) at 11 a.m. for a large bronze sculpture set to be erected in Stanley Park.
The 21-foot-high piece, entitled Shore to Shore, is carved out of yellow cedar and cast in bronze. It is a tribute to Marston’s great-great grandfather Joe Silvey and his wives Kwatleematt and Khaltinaht.
“It started out as a family effort, and then from there it moved on to more and more people being involved and wanting to see it happen,” Marston told the Georgia Straight by phone, speaking of the project’s trajectory.
Silvey moved to Canada from the Azores in Portugal in the mid 1800s, and settled down at Brockton Point, and then Reid Island. He first married Khaltinaht, from the Squamish and Musqueam First Nations, and had two daughters before she passed away at a young age due to tuberculosis.
Silvey then married Kwatleematt, Marston’s great-great grandmother, from the Sechelt First Nation.
The site in Stanley Park was chosen as the location for the sculpture because it is the site of Marston’s ancestral village, Xwáýxway. According to Marston, the location was not set in stone when the piece was started.
“We had thought maybe it was going to be in Gastown, because that’s where Joe had lived, and he had businesses in Gastown; there was definitely a lot of history there in those times,” Marston said.
Marston and his family created the Portuguese Joe Memorial Society to help raise funds to complete the statue. Through their efforts, they raised $266,000 from the Canadian Legacy Fund, and $50,000 from the family itself. In addition, the Portuguese community put in $200,000 as well.
In April, Marston travelled to Portugal with Portuguese-Canadian businesspeople Fil Jorge, of Avante Raise Right Contracting Ltd., and Manny DaCosta, of Manny’s Concrete Contracting Ltd. to thank the Azores government for its contribution to the project.
“It was really amazing, being able to go back to where Joe was from, on the Azores, see what his lifestyle would have been like there,” Marston said. “You know, hearing stories growing up about the Azores, you have this vision in your mind of what it looks like, and actually being there and being a part of it all was pretty spectacular.”
The project has also drawn the attention of filmmakers and journalists. Peter Campbell is working on a 50-minute documentary film about Shore to Shore, and journalist Suzanne Fournier is writing about the project for Harbour Publishing.
Marston hopes that these projects will help preserve the practise of carving for future generations. “We all thought that having this process being documented was imperative to preserving the history,” he said.
Above all, Marston feels lucky to have been able to tap into a different part of his family history and connect with a new community, but still feels strongly rooted in his own aboriginal heritage.
“I know that the story itself is influenced by Portuguese Joe Silvey being my great grandfather, but the art form itself is still Native art,” Marston said. “It’s not Portuguese art; it’s Native art.
“That’s what I always view myself as first, being a First Nations artist more than anything, a First Nations person, so, you know, it’s been great to be able to connect to the Portuguese vein, and being able to connect with the Portuguese community.”