Press Release - Echo Valley Ranch and Spa
The magic and mystery of Room 12 at Echo Valley Ranch
Echo Valley Ranch and Spa Oct 12 2012
The guest book at Echo Valley Ranch and Spa near Clinton is full of remarks about the "special energy" to be experienced on the property. One famous spa reviewer wrote that the ranch possesses a quality much like the famous "energy vortexes" of Sedona, Arizona.
Beneath the surface of Echo Valley Ranch there is an active water system and many warm water springs exude at the surface from many locations, thanks to the unique "karst" (limestone) rock of the Marble Mountain Range.
Gitxsan artist Michael Blackstock (Ama Goodim Gyet) believes that Echo Valley is a place of great spiritual value exemplified by the water spirits.
Echo Valley was recently named one of the top hotel properties in all of Canada, based largely on its long list of amazing guest reviews posted on TripAdvisor. Blackstock may be considered the Ranch's "artist in residence," having spent enough time at the ranch to absorb the special energy. Blackstock believes Room 12 of the Lookout Lodge, situated in close proximity to springs, ponds and a creek, is the centre of that spiritual energy where several spirit beings have taken up residence.
Any visitor to Room 12 will note that the application of paint applied to the walls has dried in a most peculiar fashion, forming patterns with what appear to be the faces of aboriginal people. Blackstock shot digital photographs of these images, then made pencil drawings of the photos, and finally spent many months this past year hand carving masks of four of the apparitions based on the drawings.
The first mask is of a being Blackstock calls the Chief. This mask is made of maple, copper, human hair and cedar bark. It was the first image on the wall that caught the artist's eye. It is a stately image with a headdress. The layered cheek images are strong features that the artist saw in the wall image, and inspired him to create a new carving technique that required careful cuts with a power saw to create the initial cheek design. The red cedar bark was collected on Vancouver Island. Blackstock believes this apparition was a past chief long ago of the Secwepemc Nation, as are the other spirit images in Room 12.
The Lynx Woman was the second image on the wall to catch the artist's eye. This mask is made of maple, copper, and human hair. It is of a strong feminine fertility spirit. The design includes a copper lip labret, some subtle Egyptian references in the design of the eye, and the maple bark on the mask mimics the lynx's fur.
The third image on the wall visible to the artist's eye is a strong warrior spirit. This mask is made of black walnut, copper, a diamond in each eye and human hair. The artist used a darker wood atypical of Northwest Coast Art to highlight the skin tone of the warrior.
The fourth image on the wall to catch the artist's eye is a water being. This mask is made of ash, copper and human hair. Copper was mined and used by First Nations prior to European contact. The ash was chosen because the wood grain resembles ripples in the water, and the under-cut cheek design is a wave. This image plays a central role in Room 12, as there are very strong undercurrents of spring water flowing right under the surface of this lodge. The artist feels these ancestors lived at this geographic spot because of the water and beauty of this spot where Echo Valley Ranch now rests. Spring water has a strong spirit and has been revered by First Nations people for many centuries.
Owner Norm Dove says the faces on the wall have appeared to many guests. Blackstock donated the masks as a gift to Dove and to the spirits who he says inhabit the room. The masks have been hung on the walls close to where the images appeared. Blackstock refuses to put a price on the art, and that they are not for sale. Guests to the Ranch are invited to view the artwork at their leisure. Blackstock says he will return to Echo Valley this summer to identify more of the spirits and to carve their faces on the trees of the forest surrounding the property, in the same fashion that First Nations artists have carved spirit beings on living trees over the course of many centuries.
Michael Blackstock (Ama Goodim Gyet) RPF, C.Med. MA, is a Canadian author, artist, forester and mediator of Gitxsan heritage. He has published Faces in the Forest (McGill-Queen's Univ. Press, 2001), and Salmon Run: A Florilegium of Aboriginal Ecological Poetry (Wyget Books, 2005, www.salmonrun.ca). He is an independent scholar who lives in Kamloops.
Video interviews with Michael Blackstock showing images and explanations of the water spirits can be found on the Echo Valley Lodge blog (www.evranch.com). For more information about Echo Valley Ranch and Spa, contact owner Norm Dove at the ranch at 250-459-2386.
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