Paying attention to his dreams

Coast Salish artist Virgil Sampson influenced by other local First Nations artists.

Virgil Sampson with his daughter Cheyenne Johnson

By Carlie Connolly/PNR staff

Virgil Sampson, representing the Coast Salish nation, has been doing artwork for more than 20 years and puts his thoughts and dreams into what he puts on a drum, canvas or paper.

Sampson is one of the featured artists at this year’s First Nations, Inuit and Metis Art Show at the Mary Winspear Centre this month.

Born and raised on the Tsartlip First Nation in Brentwood Bay, Sampson, since he was a teenager, has always been influenced by local artists like his late brother John Sampson, Charles Elliot and many others who have been encouraging and supportive.

From now until Sept. 3, he will have much of his work on display for the public to view, including a canvas painting of an orca titled The Guardian, in which he said the whales depicted represent the guardian and protector spirit.

In the painting, he uses modern colours like turquoise, aqua greens, purple and orange.

Also on display will be a 20-inch elk hide drum, which his brother taught him to make. He said that paintings are all original on drums with no stencils needed.

A lot of the work in the Coast Salish nation is done by paying attention to dreams, he said, which is part of the tradition and teachings.

“When I first started I wanted to know more about who I am as a First Nations person in our beliefs and our relationship to the land, the sea and the air and all the creatures we depend on for survival so I wanted to learn about myself through the art world,” he said.

Sampson has been a part of the annual First Nations, Inuit and Metis Art Show for it’s seven years and is also on the organizing committee. He is always looking for budding artists and one in particular who is into art just as much as him is his daughter, Cheyenne Johnson.

Getting in trouble at school for doodling on her notebook, Johnson said she has always had a creative side. She said her favourite designs are the wolf and the dragon.

Compared to other nation’s artwork, Sampson said that the Salish work isn’t as busy, using less space than other works.

Sampson said that during the art show, he is always passing along his card to meet others and introduce them to his work.

“My vision for this art show was that through our artwork, all the artists in the show can help bridge a gap between our culture and other cultures through the artwork to bring a better understanding of our people through the arts,” he explained.

“I’ve always believed that when you understand, you take away fear.”

 

First Nations art show on now

The annual First Nations, Inuit and Metis Art Show is on now and runs to Sept. 3, seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney.