Pieces of found wood have come together in the skilled and soulful hands of sculptor Rusty Norton to make a distinctive sculpture that stands proudly outside the Wellness Centre at T’it’q’et.
Called “Land, Sky and Water,” the sculpture features a grizzly bear, an eagle and a salmon.
It includes driftwood salvaged from Seton Lake for the eagle’s nest and a log that Norton dragged for two hours down a mountainside while he was fighting a forest fire in the Liza Lake area in 2009.
He explains: “I spotted that log, it was about 200 feet away from the water pump up at the top and the fire did go right through there two days later. When I saw it, I said, ‘I want that log, I want to bring it home,” so I cut it off and dragged it all the way right down to the other side. A couple of times I almost gave up but it was easier to go down than it would be to go back up, so I kept going.”
The carved eagle head atop the sculpture was boiled in grease to preserve it and then stained. There’s a teardrop in the log that resembles a scar so Norton painted it red to highlight it.
This is the first piece of Norton’s sculpture to be displayed anywhere.
“Sculpting is new to me,” he told the News. “I fooled around with it a bit and I’ve always been fascinated by the shapes of logs and what you could do with them, but this is my first sculpture.”
He worked on the piece off and on for a year, with much of that time devoted to creating the eagle’s nest. He was looking for a home for the sculpture - “and a purpose for it” - when he struck up a conversation with T’it’q’et Community Chief Kevin Whitney at a funeral. Whitney checked out the piece, decided it would be an ideal complement to the massive wood Wellness Centre and the sculpture was installed outside the centre on Oct. 1.
“You were thrilled to do it and we were thrilled to have it,” Chief Whitney told Norton during their joint interview with the News. “At any gatherings we’ve had here, people say it’s a beautiful piece and want to know who made it.”
“I feel honoured to have it here,” Norton responded.
While the sculpture stands on its own as a beautiful and sensitive piece of art, Norton says it means much more to him.
He speaks passionately of his love for nature.
“I’ve always been fascinated with Mother Nature. Since I was born, I’ve had hundreds of dreams of bears, grizzly bears. I somehow feel connected to them. They are the most spiritual animal on land, I believe And when I look up and see a huge eagle soaring, I can’t help but get a feeling of freedom inside me. And when I am gazing into the waters, I can’t help but think of the salmon, and the courage and strength it needs to face its journey upstream.”
Then he adds, “It saddens my heart to see how humans and their greed are destroying all of this.”
When he first spotted the log on the mountainside, Norton says he knew he could “create something spiritual with it, but I didn’t know what.”
Local dancer and singer Laura Grizzlypaws provided the spark of inspiration he needed.
“I saw Laura Grizzlypaws doing her grizzly bear dance and she gave a speech about protecting the grizzly bears and what they meant to her. I respected that a lot from her, enough so that all of a sudden the creation for my log sculpture was laid out right there. The whole blueprint was laid out right in front of me. So I created ‘Land, Sky and Water.’”
Now, he describes the sculpture as a “cry for change in our ways of living and our ways of thinking.”