Raven is Supernatural Argillite Carving by Melanie Russ (Haida)

Dimensions: 7.874 inches x 4.33 inches x 4.33 inches (20 cm x 11 cm x 11 cm)

Material: Argillite 

Year: 2024


Raven is Supernatural (X̱uuya Iijii Sg̲aanaag̲wa)

This captivating sculpture depicts Raven undergoing a remarkable transformation into a Two-Finned Killer Whale, echoing the stories of supernatural beings in Haida oral history. 

Note the enlarged facial features of the Killer Whale and the presence of two dorsal fins, emphasizing its supernatural attributes. 

Observe the markings of Raven: Raven's talons and feathers adorning the front of the Killer Whale, as well as smaller body feathers and larger tail feathers on its back, conveying Raven’s attributes as it transforms. 

Many details can be seen and admired in this piece. Killer Whale ribs are carved along its body, and its spine is illustrated in carvings directly below the two dorsal fins.

The dynamic movement in this sculpture follows the shape of a wave, further capturing the nature of the ever-changing ocean. Precise cutouts on the back of the Killer Whale's pectoral fin further activate the motion of the force of a wave in motion. 

The base is rippled and dynamic like the ocean's current. Along each of the four sides of the base is additional carvings: two killer whales and two ravens. 

These technical elements, intricate details, and overall composition contribute to the sculpture's richness and are illustrative of Melanie Russ’ command of detail and movement in her work. Influenced by her parents, and argillite carvers, the late Faye and Ed Russ, Melanie uses their teachings while adding her own command of detail, movement, and style.

The two-fin killer whale is one of Melanie Russ’ crests. The bottom of the carving is signed Melanie Russ 2024. 

*Haida spelling provided by Melanie Russ.

Made by Haida Artist Melanie Russ:

Melanie Russ is the daughter of the late Haida artists, Faye Russ and Ed Russ, and is originally from Skidegate, Haida Gwaii.

Her father began teaching her to carve when she was a very young girl and though he passed away some time ago, she expresses the feeling that he is still with her, guiding her, reminding her to look at the rough argillite, then to close her eyes and a design will come. Her late mother Faye was also instrumental in her education as an artist and was a potent influence in her creative process, often working on sculptures together. Her work is a depiction of the classic iconography of her Haida lineage.

Melanie has an exquisite command for detail and hand-finishing as you can see in the final carvings details, formline, cross-hatching and texturing of her pieces.

Melanie is one of few women Haida carvers and is known for her intricate detail in jewelry and carvings.

In November 2024, Melanie Russ' artwork will be highlighted in an upcoming show at the Audain Art Museum in Whistler, BC, called Women Carvers of the Northwest Coast. 

About Argillite: 

Argillite is a black stone that is geologically classified as slate. The argillite from Haida Gwaii is found on one mountaintop and is protected by the Haida Nation as a stone exclusively carved by the Haida people.

This stone’s geological formation makes it unique compared to argillite found elsewhere. Exposure to high heats allowed this argillite to cool and form in a way that was strong enough to be carved, yet soft enough to take on fine carving details and sculpting.

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