Artist feels kinship with subject of her sculpture

It is perhaps fitting that local artist Crystal Przybille should deliver the bronze likeness commemorating Father Pandosy, one of the Okanagan’s most influential forefathers, to Kelowna’s public art collection for she has truly mothered its vision from infancy.

  • Jul. 28, 2011 1:00 p.m.
Local artist  Crystal Przybille will open her studio to show the people of Kelowna how she is building the bronze sculpture recognizing Father Pandosy

Local artist Crystal Przybille will open her studio to show the people of Kelowna how she is building the bronze sculpture recognizing Father Pandosy

It is perhaps fitting that local artist Crystal Przybille should deliver the bronze likeness commemorating Father Pandosy, one of the Okanagan’s most influential forefathers, to Kelowna’s public art collection for she has truly mothered its vision from infancy.

Twelve years ago, while living across from the Father Pandosy Mission, she realized the Okanagan needed to pay homage to the venerable priest who established the mission, negotiating settlement of the new European culture in the existing First Nations territory, and planting the area’s first orchard.

Pandosy contemplated growing the first wine grapes for communion, as was the custom in his native France, and taught others how to establish more fruit trees, as Pryzbille would learn while she lived in a small cottage across from the monument to what’s thought to be his grave.

“I felt very much ensconced in his history and thought it would be really interesting to have a sculpture of this figure,” she said.

“A lot of cities have sculptures of historical figures, represented for tourists and so that the general public can get a sense of the identity of the community.”

The form she has devised tries to provide a balanced approach to this history, showing the priest’s formidable figure struggling through a tumultuous time from a fruit tree pruning rooted in the soil of his new homeland.

On his cloak, images of the four Syilx First Nations food chiefs—bear representing hunted meat, salmon for food from the water, saskatoon berry for the food grown above the soil and Bitterroot for food from the earth—showcase the hunter/gatherer society his agricultural knowledge would sacrifice as the coyote spirit guide of the First Nations howls at his side.

The finished product will be slightly larger than life-size.

To appear true-to-life bronze sculptors will typically oversize their work a little as a direct replica will often appear smaller to the naked eye in its solid, dark final form.

“There are different reports on how people felt about Pandosy, but in general I got the sense that he was well respected,” said Pryzbille.

“…On the other hand, he built the settlement. He was under obligation and obedience to Rome. He was teaching a different spiritual faith than what the First Nations people had themselves, so it did create a diminishing of their original culture.”

As such, the sculpture will not be built to glorify, or for that matter vilify, the priest, but simply to mark the 150th anniversary of the Father Pandosy Mission last year.

The caretaker of the mission property approached Przybille in 2009 to see if she was still interested in pursuing her sculptural project, pointing out it might be timely to find the funds.

That prompted a little research, then more research, mock-ups, books ordered online, and meetings with the Okanagan Historical Society and the city’s public art committee.

Przybille spearheaded a grant-writing process and when the six-foot, eight-inch bronze likeness (Father Pandosy was an astounding six-foot, four inches tall) was given the go-ahead with a $49,000 grant from the federal Heritage Legacy Fund, she secured approval from the city’s public art committee to have the piece accepted into the public art collection.

“I wanted to give this sense of height. He would have been a very imposing, intimidating figure to some,” she said.

“So it was important to have that scale.”

Creating a piece of public art of this stature will not make one rich.

Of the $112,000 budget, roughly a third goes to the bronze foundry to make the final moulds, slice and dice the clay figure, pour the bronze, solder the pieces together and work with the artist on the final patina.

Another third is allocated to the raw materials, transportation, studio rental and installation at its new home across from the Thompson farm on the H2O Centre property.

For her vision and two years of labour, Pryzbille will see $30,000 in artist’s fees.

This is her first bronze—she’s self taught, though she does have a fine arts degree—so building the piece will add to her portfolio for the future; but she has had to raise all the money without tapping the city’s public art funding and is still working to do so.

“For me it’s a labour of love, really,” said Przybille.

“When I’m in here working, I’m happy. It’s such a joy for me.”

Some 20 machetes of the project will be sold to raise money to complete the work and the artist is still accepting donations in hopes of meeting her final budget.

An information plaque featuring English, French and Nsylixcen languages will acknowledge the donors on the final site.

In the meantime, she is hosting an artist’s talk and opening her Rotary Centre for the Arts studio to allow the community a sneak peak of the clay form quickly taking shape.

On Aug. 10, from 7:30 to 9 p.m. in Studio 111 on the main floor of the RCA, Pryzbille will offer wine and cheese and hold a discussion on the Father Pandosy project—everyone welcome.

Information on donating to the project can be found at http://sites.google.com/site/pandosysculpture or by emailing Pryzbille at crystalprzybille@hotmail.com

The machetes are on display in her studio and at the Kelowna Art Gallery.

 

jsmith@kelownacapnews.com

 

 

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