The Madonna of the Cedars made a special appearance at the Bella Coola Gallery

Bella Coola Gallery hosts special guest “Madonna of the Cedars”

Likely we will never know what happened to the winner of the 1958 UBC Provincial Competition for sculpture.

Likely we will never know what happened to the winner of the 1958 UBC Provincial Competition for sculpture. The piece, named Madonna of the Cedars, for some years in the early to mid-1960’s welcomed visitors to International House on the University of British Columbia campus.

While an undergrad of UBC at that time I was told the statue was the work of a Bella Coola resident. Upon visiting the piece I was suspicious that an error had been made as I knew we had distinguished carvers in Bella Coola who carved totem poles. Little did I know that beyond my valley a new form of “modern” art was exploding and one of our “boys” was taking awards in this field.

Alfred Edgar Carlsen was the carver’s name. Additional information provided at the university states Carlsen was born in Bella Coola in 1910 (and died in Prince George in 1986.) He trained as an economist but learned sculpting from Jan Zack, a Czech artist resident in Victoria.

The connection of the Madonna of the Cedars at UBC and my research at our own Central Coast Archives in Bella Coola left me wanting. Personal enquiries at International House five years ago were met with blank stares. Nobody seemed to know of Madonna’s existence. She was listed on the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery web site as belonging to the university but as one of the “sculptures no longer on the campus”.

About a year ago I was at a public reception when a very familiar UBC photo of Madonna was circulated.  She had been found in a residential area of Vancouver, discarded. The individual who found the sculpture realized there was a connection with Bella Coola and was attempting to return it. Eventually it was received here on the condition that it would be displayed where the Bella Coola residents would be able to view it.

The end of September, a month ago, Madonna was on display at the Bella Coola Gallery in Hagensborg. The next day she was returned to the Belkin Gallery at UBC. How long she has been away from the university could be 50 years or less, and who removed her, was it the young men wearing the red jackets that hung a VW beetle under the Lions Gate Bridge about this time 45 years ago? Do you know?

The connection to Bella Coola goes back to 1894, when the first group of Norwegian speaking settlers took up land grants offered to them by the BC Government. Christian Carlsen, a resident of Washington State, joined the larger group coming from Minnesota and surrounding states. He and his bride Ovidia Baarli were the first couple of this group to marry. Alfred was their fifth son.

The family originally lived in the Nusatsum area where they developed a farm at what is now 3220 Hwy 20. Early on, because of employment opportunities, a second property was bought in the Necleetsconnay valley and a second farm developed. Christian was a Provincial Constable, Deputy Mining Inspector, Tax Collector and Justice of the Peace. The school in the old Townsite at the mouth of the Necleetsconnay River was said to be filled with Carlsen, Christensen and Brynildsen boys, a challenge for any beginning teacher!

 

Just Posted

“It’s something you’re called to do”: Cullen reflects on time as MP

For Nathan Cullen, it’s not goodbye, it’s farewell.

Local artist Sesyaz Saunders’ art on display at YVR

Saunders worked with renowned artist Robert Davidson on a large panel

Mother dog, 9 puppies dumped in sealed box at Puntzi Lake landfill: SPCA

Puppies will be available for adoption at seven weeks old

B.C. government provides $100,000 to CCCTA for emergency preparedness

The marketing organizations will use this funding to create a common set of communications tools

10 facts about Father’s Day

Did you know that the special day for dads was first celebrated in 1910?

B.C. VIEWS: When farmland protection doesn’t protect farmers

Secondary residences aren’t mansions, families tell Lana Popham

Bombers down B.C. Lions 33-23 in season opener

Former Lion Andrew Harris leads Winnipeg with 148 rushing yards

Northern B.C. family remembers murdered Indigenous woman with memorial walk

Still no closure for Ramona Wilson’s family 25 years later

B.C. university to offer mentorship program for former youth in care

Students using the provincial tuition waiver program will soon be able to form a community at KPU

Cyclists competing in one of the toughest bike races on the planet pass through Fernie

Divide riders looking strong as they finish first leg of 4160 km race

You might not know these B.C. records are public

Hired a lawyer to file a civil claim? Those are published online

B.C. bus driver loses case to get job back after texting while driving full bus

An arbitator ruled that Tim Wesman’s phone usage was a “a reckless disregard for public safety”

B.C. Interior First Nation family ‘heartbroken’ over loss of young mom

RCMP have released no new information since the June 8, 2019 homicide

Most Read