Patrick McGuire, Haida Artist.

This blog post is about my Uncle Patrick McGuire, his life, his struggle, his family and his art.

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Patrick Samuel McGuire was born on June 5th, 1943. He is a member of the Staastas Eagle clan.

Pat’s Father was Sam McGuire of Ojibwaay Irish heritage and his Mother Nora Tulip was Haida.

Patrick was one of five children. Patrick has two daughters Lisa and Shelly.

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Patrick’s watercolour painting of the Staastas Beaver pole that stood in front of Skidegate.

In conversation with my Dad Michael McGuire, I learned a lot about Patrick.

Patrick started drawing from an early age.

Patrick was given the tools to begin carving from his Uncle Edmund Calder.

Edmund provided Patrick with the tools he needed to begin carving argillite.

Edmund also gave him books to study so that he could begin studying Haida art.

My Dad said that their family was filled with artists and Patrick was given a lot of help in learning how to carve.

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During Patrick’s time in Skidegate he was immersed in Haida Stories told by his Uncle Joe Tulip.

Patrick drew in watercolours and carved argillite, later silver and gold.

Patrick learned from the many artists in Skidegate and learned quite a bit of colour techniques.

 With guidance from mentors, books and photos, Patrick developed his natural abilities as an artist.

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My father explained his decision to give my older brother Patrick’s name.

My brother Pat’s Mother was pregnant with him at the time that Patrick McGuire died.

My Dad Michael said that there

“was no question that my first son would honour my brothers memory by inheriting his name”.

Out of family curiosity my brother Pat, begun seeking out Patrick McGuire pieces and bought his first piece in 2005.

Pat wanted to show his kids Haida art and have them gain an appreciation of their family’s talents.

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My brother’s curiosity about our Uncle and his generosity in purchasing these items so that our family could enjoy them for years to come is inspiring.

Pat has purchased argillite pieces and in his words “his argillite is awesome”.

Pat also says that his favorite painting is the Blind Halibut Fisherman.

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The “Blind Halibut Fisherman”

My Dad really loved Patrick’s argillite poles and eagle pendants.

My Dad has one of his favourite designs tattooed on his left arm, a thunderbird, the tattoo and the original pictured here.

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Patrick McGuire’s original Thunderbird design.

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My Dad’s tattoo of the same design. Artist: Samantha Rae.

There was a lot of buzz surrounding Patrick’s talent, focus, precision and perfectionism.

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“Very rapidly, he exhibited a genuine style different from that of any of his fellow carvers-freer in concept and form, dead sure in line, harmonious. In the early 1960s the word went around collectors’ circles in Prince Rupert and Vancouver that McGuire was the carver of the future”

(Leslie Drew and Douglas Wilson, Argillite: Art of the Haida, 1980).

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“When I started carving in 1959, the rave was what a great carver Pat McGuire was. Many people from Skidegate spoke highly of his work. I never met him until I moved to Vancouver in 1965. I was very curious to see his work, to see what made it great so I could be a great carver. I was amazed when I finally saw his work. During this time period the art carved in argillite was a slim shadow of the classical period of Haida Art. After I learned more of the principles of the classical period, in looking at what he was creating I was in awe of how he was able to create with an understanding of the old masters. His main forte was argillite, later water colour on paper.”

–Robert Davidson

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I could not write this blog without talking with Patrick’s two daughters Lisa and Shelly.

Both Lisa and Shelly were adopted into other families but now have a strong connection to their McGuire family. Patrick died two days before Shelly’s first birthday, she would never get the chance to meet him, or to know him, but she had his art.

Lisa was twenty three when she found out about her Father’s identity.

Lisa has yet to visit Haida Gwaii

“I know who I am and where I come from but I still feel like an outsider looking in”.

  In Argillite: Art of the Haida, Drew and Wilson write about how Patrick “ possessed the Haida mystique of birth and rebirth. Carving was a ceremonial act, with McGuire in complete control” (1980).

Patrick lives on through his art and his daughters.

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Thankfully Shelly’s adoptive family exposed her to Patrick’s art from a young age and they bought paintings and argillite carvings that Shelly owns.

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In Shelly’s words “I have felt a range of emotions over the years. There has always been an element of sorrow for having lost and not known my Dad. To grow up knowing that I am Haida has given me a very strong sense of identity. I am grateful for having my Dad’s art with me my entire life. Learning later that Patrick had another daughter- my older sister has anchored me further in the world.”

Unfortunately, Lisa did not know much about Patrick’s art until a few years ago. Lisa went into Pegasus art gallery on Saltspring Island and enquired into whether they had any Patrick McGuire pieces. Lisa explained that Patrick was her Father. The gallery worker brought out pieces for Lisa to examine. In her words,”I got to touch the pieces he carved. It gave me goose bumps, my hands were shaking.”

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Patrick left a legacy of work.

In his short life he created an astonishing amount of pieces that are now located throughout the world.

 Patrick’s style was completely his own.

It is easily deciphered from that of other artists and from the work of his mentors.

Drew & Wilson write that,

“his life was short, but during that brief time he produced work of extraordinary vitality, a living memorial to his genius”

(Argillite: Art of the Haida, 1980).

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Patrick’s daughter Shelly was reunited with the McGuire side of her family in 1993. At the time that Shelly got to know our family Uncle James McGuire (Bussy) and my Dad were living in the same house. Shelly lived with us a couple of times throughout her life and she has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Shelly said that she “was coming home in so many ways” when she moved to Vancouver and met the McGuire family.

Our Uncle James McGuire (Bussy) and my Father further exposed Shelly to Patrick’s art.

I think that they wanted Shelly to know who she was through her Dad’s art and his representations of Haida culture and lineage.

Lisa is closest to her Uncle, my Dad, Michael. Lisa said that my Dad has been incredibly understanding of her “apprehensiveness about belonging” and allows her to be herself. Through my Dad Lisa has met me, my brothers, and my Uncle Bussy. Shelly and Lisa met 10 years ago. In Lisa’s words “I know that Shelly knew of our father earlier in her life…I can see she has an easier time making a connection with our McGuire family”.

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The way that Shelly speaks about Patrick’s arts impact on her life is so powerful and representative of the strength of Haida art.

“Patrick’s art enshrouded me in identity…Growing up with his artwork has given me a lifelong connection to being Haida…I feel like I know elements of him through his art. He showed me Haida Gwaii and Haida design within his paintings. His work illustrates mountains, forest, and ocean- with focal points, such as canoes or totem poles- live images of Haida Gwaii. His argillite carvings are so intricate and skilful.”

Lisa said that when she visited the Pegasus gallery and touched the argillite pieces she “felt his energy”.

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Patrick battled with his inner demons.

He left Haida Gwaii for Vancouver at the age of twenty.

Unfortunately Patrick’s addictions took over his life in the City.

Patrick sold his art and supported his habit.

Patrick’s life was not easy and it ended tragically.

Patrick Samuel McGuire died at the age of 27 on December.11th, 1970.

My Dad was only 18 months apart from his brother Patrick.

My Dad said that my Uncle’s death was the hardest thing that he has ever gone through.

As I was writing this post I considered the timeline of these events.

My Dad quit drinking when my oldest brother was born.

My Dad had also struggled with his own substance abuse issues,

I am sure that Patrick’s death and Pat being born, together, changed the path of my Father’s life forever.

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Patrick’s art may not be widely known but it changed the lives of his daughters.

When he left this world he left his soul.

His soul lives on in each argillite carving with P.McGuire etched in the bottom, each watercolour painting with a scrawled signature in the right hand corner.

McGuire was a perfectionist, so much so that “he would destroy a carving before he would sell something that failed to come up to his standards” (Drew & Wilson, Argillite: Art of the Haida, 1980).

His perfectionism showed in the brilliance of his work.

Patrick had something to share with the world and I am so grateful that he chose to share it with us.

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I never met my Uncle, but I know him.

I believe that the best art evokes emotion.

Pat’s art has always interested me and I have always felt connected to the pieces that I have seen.

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This is one of my favourite pieces.

Patrick used colour so beautifully and intricately.

 Patrick portrayed raw emotion in the faces that he drew, painted and carved.

The realism of his pieces, the haunting eyes and the way that he painted cheekbones is stunning.

He captured Haida Gwaii ingeniously; his technique was ahead of his time.

I cannot imagine what kind of art he would be creating now if he were still with us.

I am grateful to know Patrick through his art.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to spend time with him through his pieces.

I urge you to spend some time with him as well.

My father has left the pieces that he owns on loan at the Haida Gwaii Museum.

I had the opportunity to photograph these pieces.

When the Museum’s executive director opened a drawer filled with original paintings I was overwhelmed.

There were tears in my eyes as I examined them each painting illustrated the magic and sorrow of Haida Gwaii.

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I was recently asked to curate a show on Patrick McGuire’s work alongside Nika Collison.

I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity.

This is a huge step for me professionally and I could not be more excited.

In 2015 the Pat McGuire show will be exhibited at the Haida Gwaii Museum.

I hope that my family and especially his daughters will be able to come see this show so they can get to know their Father.

I hope that you can come too.

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Special thank-you to Michael McGuire, Shelly Vanderhoef, Nika Collison, Walker Brown,

The Haida Gwaii Museum, Lisa Sinclair, Patrick McGuire, Robert Davidson and Douglas Wilson.

Dad, Shelly and Lisa thank-you for sharing your stories. I know it was hard for all of you.

Blog written by: Michaela McGuire, Project Officer at GNC & HHC, Photographer and new-ish Skidegate resident.