(Morgan Green is currently trying to raise $5000 to pay the remainder of her tutition for goldsmithing. She is offering a number of pieces of her original art in return for donations. If you want to assist, please click this link)
Looking at the artistic career of twenty-six-year-old Morgan Green, the first thing that strikes most people is how varied it has been. But probably, that variety comes naturally. With an art teacher for a mother, and master carver Henry Green for a father, Green has been surrounded by a variety of art all her life.
However, for Green herself, the road to becoming an artist, “All started with clothing. “I’ve always loved making clothing since I was young. I used to handsew on the bus or wherever to pass time. I can still handsew and walk at the same time,” Green says, adding with a smile, “I can also read and walk, but it’s a bit of a dangerous occupation.”
In fact, Green’s first formal training after graduating from high school in Prince Rupert was fashion design. However, since then, she has also studied bronze casting, molding technique, clay sculpture and goldsmithing, as well as learning wood carving with her father and Salish carver Jordan Seward, and jewelry-making with Haida artist Richard Adkins.
With this background, Green is already making a living as an artist, although, like most artists, she has also had the usual array of odd jobs, ranging from commercial fishing to waitressing.
“The most important steps were just doing it,” Green says when asked about how she established her career. “I put myself out there, applied for grants, asked to apprentice, showed up, and applied for art jobs.”
However, Green also goes on to say that, “Formal training has helped me immensely to have cleaner, professional work. Usually, the teachers are an amazing resource.”
A tradition of her own
Of mixed Scottish and Tsimshian background, Green shows a similar diversity of influences.
In general, she says, “I admire artists who work hard.” However, asked to name artists she admires, the first one she mentions is Art Nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha.
“The visual flow of his work is enchanting,” she says. “I find it rather poignant how he influenced the whole Art Nouveau movement like that, then died alone in exile. Very sad. I like that much of his art was poster art, popular culture. He has been an influence because I have studied his work a lot and use his work often as a drawing reference.”
The next influences she acknowledges are “Tsimshian historical artists. Most of their names aren’t known, but I am the most fascinated with their work. Their variations on Mouse Woman are my favorite, but everything about their formline is amazing – the shapes, the flow, the connections.”
Some writers on Northwest Coast art would see a split between the modern and the traditional in these influences, but Green doesn’t see tings that way. “I think that tradition and innovation are the same, or, I should say that Northwest Coast historical designs and sculpture were extremely innovative. I think that it is important to study tradition, because, without that study, innovation can seem hollow.”
Unlike some First Nations artists, Green sees nothing wrong with choosing subjects that are not part of her family’s crests. “Technically, if I stayed within my hereditary right, I would only be able to make eagle things,” she says, “But even in history artists were definitely different from the general population. To my knowledge, the hereditary right is more important for who’s wearing the item. Artists have always created art for many different people, as well as for performances, and even neighboring villages. So I think that we can be given some artistic license.”
Diversity upon diversity
Since Green makes her living as an artist, she describes herself as “somewhere in mid-stage of my career. I feel like my artwork is still maturing, but the quality is good, and I’m happy with where I’m at. I’m not really one for major production or commercialism (I like to make things one of a kind, and I believe in locally made), so I’m lucky that I have supporters who believe in me.
Right now, Green thinks that “My career is at another jumping off point.” Continuing to work in a variety of media, she says “I see it all as connected. The processes are all different, but have similarities. A lot of [working with a new medium] is learning how to work best with the properties of the material.
“I am, of course, in love with a very traditional style of Tsimshian art myself.”
Besides art, Green also hopes to do more teaching in the future. “Teaching has probably been my biggest revelation: first figuring out I had skills to share, and then trying to formulate my knowledge and ideas into a communicable lesson plan. I think that teaching Northwest Coast art fills my need for altruism. I think it helps people, and at the very least makes kids happy.”
In addition, Green is also concerned with violence against women, and was Jordan Steward’s assistant a few years ago on the pole to commemorate missing women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
As Green thinks ahead, she adds “I want to teach art and prevent violence against women and make our children stronger and able to practice cultural arts. And I want to do a fashion show, sometime soon.”
An armchair psychologist might be tempted to speculate that Green is trying to combine the interests of both her parents in her own life. However, those who know her might be more tempted to say that her ambitions are just Morgan being Morgan, looking ahead to more of the diversity that has already characterized her career.