“Reflections on Quw’ustun Tribe Identities,” an exhibition of dry pastel portraits by Levi Westerveld ’15.5, recently completed its exhibition period at the M Gallery in the Old Stone Mill. The Campus‘ Leah Pickett interviewed Westerveld Discusses ExhibitWesterveld on his drawings toward the end of the exhibition and produced the video above.
Additional information was provided by the individual exhibit’s page on the M Gallery website:
This exhibition is a series of portraits of First Nations from the Quw’ustun’ tribe living in the Cowichan Bay on Vancouver Island. During my stay in the tribe this summer I met and interviewed some of the four thousand incredible human beings that have bonded with this land over many generations. Some of them told me stories, some of them let me draw their portraits, and some of them remained silent.
The fascinating process of creation is a pleasure, but it also gives greater definition to one’s sense of self. Over time, through making many marks on paper, I have become familiar with my specific way of interpreting the face. For me, the eyes are an important point of connection; as I draw, I often feel as if the eyes can transmit the essence of a person. This connection was vital when making these images, for, while each portrait is the result of sketches and photographs, they also derive – perhaps most importantly – from my personal interpretation of my subjects’ identities. Coming from a very different culture, it was difficult to connect with the aboriginal people I met. Art allowed me to establish that relationship more firmly.
Studying the way that curving planes of light and shadow comprise the appearance of a face made a deep impression on me and helped me grasp the multi-faceted nature of my subjects’ identities. Some of these facts were wisdom, wholeness, and strength; others were the scars of terrible experience that these people have endured in the past and, in fact, still endure today. Other facets I saw, but cannot explain; still others I never glimpsed at all.
My use of charcoal and dry pastels is influenced by the prehistoric drawings in caves from my region in the southwestern France. The texture and color produced by these media is reminiscent of the soils that form the Earth’s exterior and communicates a connection between the faces and nature. By capturing my interpretation of these people – the stories behind their faces, their relationship to the land, their complex individual and collective identities – I hope to break down some of the barriers that have been erected as a result of the history between their society and our own. Displayed together, the viewer can appreciate each image in its own right but cannot deny the essential unity of the series.