Luke Marston. Canadian native artist with Portuguese ancestry

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Luke Martson with one of his sculptures. (Photo personal archive)

There are ten statues erected at Stanley Park in Vancouver which adorns the park and preserves the history and heritage of Vancouver and British Columbia. Apart from being appealing to the eye, these statues tell stories of our historical legends. Amongst these ten are: 1. Lord Stanley, former Governor General of Canada for whom the Park was named in 1888. The Stanley Cup which is awarded to the best National Hockey League (NHL), was also named after him. 2. The Robert Burn’s Statute was one of the first statues erected in Vancouver. Celebrated worldwide Burn’s is widely beloved and renowned as the national poet of Scotland. 3. Setting a total of seven world records, Canadian Olympian, Harry Jerome, was the greatest Canadian track and field legend. 4. David Oppenheimer, was Vancouver’s first visionary mayor. 5. The  most iconic of the statues, is Girl in Wetsuit, a gift to the Vancouver Parks Board, usually mistaken for a mermaid. 6 and 7. Statues of the two lions that guard the Lions Gate Bridge. 8. The Raven Statue which represents transformation and change in the First Nations’ culture and 9. Bill Reid’s Killer Whale – Chief of the Undersea World. Although they all tell a beautiful story, the 10th statue that assumed residency at Stanley Park, the 14-foot bronze sculpture, named “Shore to Shore”, is unique, because it not only tells a beautiful story, it is a labour of love, a special tribute from Canadian Native artist, Luke Marston(Ts’uts’umutl), to his great-great grandfather Portuguese-Canadian Joe Silvey who was a historical legend from a foreign land, embraced and accepted by the First Nations People. Another unique characteristic of Marston’s “Shore to Shore” is that it celebrates diversity, Canada’s fabric make-up.

Joe Silvey, known as the Portuguese legend, may be gone but his story is immortal, thanks to one of his 500 descendants, his great-great-grandson, Luke Marston, who was born in 1976. Luke has resuscitated Portuguese Joe’s history and memories back to life through his art. Luke is one of many special gifts, from Joe’s marriage to his second Coast Salish wife, Kwahama Kwarleematt. As a world-renowned wood carving artist, he has given continuity to Portuguese Joe’s legacy. He has integrated his special gift in wood carving with the influence of Portuguese tile art. The final product is a bronze sculpture, which will preserve Joe’s history, honour his spirit, and allow that his legacy to continue for many generations to come. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Luke’s parents, Jane and David Marston, and his brother John Marston, also renowned and accomplished native wood carvers.

Coast Salish artist Simon Charlie was Luke’s teacher. Luke has worked alongside Jonathan Henderson, Sean Whannock, Sean Karpes and his brother, John Marston at Thunderbird Park at the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria.

In her book entitled. “The Remarkable Adventures of Portuguese Joe Silvey”, historian Jean Barman, brings Joe’s story to life – the romance, the tragedy, and the adventure coined with interviews with Silvey’s descendants, archival records and historical photographs.

“Portuguese Joe” Silvey, from Pico Island, Azores, was the first recorded Portuguese to immigrate to British Columbia.  After years in the American whaling industry he arrived in British Columbia around 1858 via California. He married Khaltinaht, a daughter of Grand Chief Kiapilano, and their daughter, Elizabeth Walker (née Silvey), was the first child born in Vancouver of European origin. They lived in a cabin built in what is now Stanley Park.

Artist Luke Marston, with the wooden sculpture, of what became one of his masterpiece works, a four and a half meter bronze sculpture called “Shore to Shore” (Costa a Costa), which was a tribute to his Portuguese great-great-grandfather Joey Silvey to commemorate the life of Silvey and his first and second native wives, and the connection between the Portuguese people and the Salish coast. (Photo by Kim Stallknecht)

Joe ran Vancouver’s second saloon in Gastown named, “Hole in the Wall” and was a fisherman as well. He was a good friend of the owner of Globe Saloon, John Deighton, known as “Gassy Jack”. Gastown adopted its name from Gassy. After his wife Khaltinaht died in 1871, he married a First Nation Shishalh woman, named Kwaham Kwatleematt (Lucy). They later moved to Reid Island where their family grew to 10 children. Portuguese Joe died in 1902 and has approximately 500 descendants.

In a newspaper article Luke explained that this is such a great story because a first settler, marries the chief’s granddaughter (Chief Kiapilano) and was accepted by the First Nations people.

In the Georgia Straight article entitled, “Coast Salish carver Luke Marston explores Portuguese roots for Stanley Park sculpture”, by Jericho Knopp on June 24th, 2014, a statement was quote by Luke presumably saying, “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,” “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.” In this same article Marston stated that although the story is influenced by Portuguese Joe Silvey, the art form is Native art.

As a First Nations artist, he’s happy that he was able to connect to his Portuguese roots and community.

Luke Marston working with his work in tribute to Portugal, “Isca de Bacalhau do Lobo Marinho” that will be installed in Lisbon. The public art installation was inspired by Shore to Shore (Costa a Costa) which was presented a few years ago in Stanley Park. (Photo by Mike Gregory)

Luke’s artistic versatility is of such a high order, that it can only be comparable to the, “Renaissance man”, Italian Sculpture Michelangelo, of the 15th century. His exhibitions extend from Canada, to the United States and Japan. Several scholars have described Michelangelo as the greatest artist of his age and even as the greatest artist of all time. Luke has added many jewels to his crown as an artist, such as major commissions from the Canadian government, The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, and the Nanaimo Airport. Luke named the bronze sculpture, “Shore to Shore” because it honours and tells the colourful life stories of his ancestors at the turn of the century in British Columbia; his Portuguese great-great grandfather Joe Silvey, and his first and second native wives. A book entitled “Shore to Shore, The art of Ts’uts’umutl Luke Marston” by award-winning author Susan Fournier was released at the same time to coincide with the installation date of June 24, 2014 of his 14-foot bronze sculpture, which overlooks downtown Vancouver, from its location at Vancouver’s Stanley Park’s northeast. Several scholars have described Michelangelo as the greatest artist of his age and even as the greatest artist of all time. Luke’s work is deserving of equal praise.

According to the article written by Mike Gregory on March 31, 2018, entitled, “Coast Salish artist Luke Marston delivers new carving to Portugal Public art installation for Lisbon inspired by Shore to Shore”, inspired by his Shore to Shore Sculpture, Luke carved the sea wolf cod lure, which was casted into a bronze sculpture for a public installation in Lisbon, Portugal.

The art is described as the carving of sea wolves flowing across the three prongs. Dorsal fins and cod encircled in ocean waves are also revealed as the carving is examined closely. The two-metre-high sculpture is topped with a wolf head.

The following statement presumably made by Luke, was quoted in Mike Gregory’s article, “I chose the story of the sea wolf because it represents families travelling together – the wolf pack travels together and they transform into killer whales and then hunt the ocean and travel as a family,” Marston said. “If you look at it on a more political level, it’s like the transformation of First Nations people coming to the forefront again and having their voice and moving forward in that way and gaining their identity back as a whole.”

Through art, Luke has eloquently illustrated the beautiful history which resulted between the marriage of two nations, the Portuguese and the First Nations People of Canada, which weaved the makeup of his ancestry. All the Portuguese speaking countries around the world, Brazil, Mozambique, Angola, Portugal, Guinea-Bissau, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Macau, Cape Verde, and São Tomé and Príncipe, should be honoured by Luke’s homage and pride of his Portuguese ancestry.

Escultura “Isca de Bacalhau do Lobo Marinho” (Sea Wolf Cod Lure) instalada em bronze de Luke Marston em Lisboa, Portugal
This article was developed with the support of the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada, under the Local Journalism Initiative (LJI) program, strengthening the voice of small Portuguese-speaking communities in remote areas of Canada. Creative Common Attribution: CC by BrazilianWave.org

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