Haida artist explores the supernatural with new exhibition and album

Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson, best known for her work as a musician and environmental lawyer, has now combined art, photography and music in her latest album and exhibition about supernatural beings.

Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson drew inspiration from Haida Gwaii stories

'Portrait of Landslide,' is one of the songs on the new album that explores different ways of looking at the earth. (Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson)

Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson, best known for her work as a musician and environmental lawyer, has now combined visual art, photography and music in her latest album and exhibition about supernatural beings.

In her new album Grizzly Bear Town and accompanying six-month exhibition, Out of Concealment, featuring art and photography, Williams-Davidson explores some of the traditional stories of the Haida Nation and the accounts of female supernatural beings of Haida Gwaii.

The project is distinct from her previous work by showcasing the feminine and powerful landscapes of Haida Gwaii, she told CBC's host of North By Northwest Sheryl Mackay.   

"After my last album, I wanted to work on a project about supernatural beings but then I kept trying to visualize what the supernatural beings would look like," Williams-Davidson said.

Williams-Davidson’s images, like this 'White Raven Bringing Light To The World,' which is part of 'Out of Concealment' are inspired by specific stories from Haida oral narratives. (Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson )

Supernatural landscape

The images that Williams-Davidson thought up became the basis of a book of photography and art, which then later turned into an exhibition at the Haida Gwaii Museum in Skidegate. She said that she hopes her images changes how people view and treat the world around them by highlighting the supernatural.

"If you change your context and see it as a supernatural landscape then it isn't a landscape to be dominated and to rip all the resources from the land and sea," she said. "It really changes your relationship and how you view your surroundings."

Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson, centre, Bill Henderson, right, and Claire Lawrence. left, collaborated on the album. (Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson)

Inspirations and curiosity

The new ten-song album, a collaboration with Canadian musicians Bill Henderson and Claire Lawrence, was inspired by Williams-Davidson's curiosity about the stories and traditions of her background, she said. Grizzly Bear Town was the name of the place her great-grandmother was born.

"It's a meditation about my desire throughout my life to go back and sit with my great-grandmother and learn directly from her about Haida oral traditions and Haida culture," Williams-Davidson said.

One of the songs, Foam Woman, was inspired from a story about a woman who almost caused a flood while giving birth. She sang a song to stop the floods and, in an ethnographic record, one line of the song was preserved. 

"That line is the chorus of the song," she said. "We didn't have the melody survive but the words survived, so that became an ancient tie to the song."  

'At a really important juncture'

Above all, Williams-Davidson hopes to share the stories and messages with future generations.

"When I was a young child, a lot of this information wasn't so out in the open but now it's free for everybody to see," she said. "We are at a really important juncture with our place with the earth and the way forward is turning back to ancient teachings about how we can live with the land and the sea."

The exhibition, Out of Concealment, is at the Haida Gwaii Museum in Skidegate until December 31, 2017. 

With files from North By Northwest