At first glance the giant 25,000-pound marble sculpture doesn’t look like a wolf.
But step closer and the natural impression of a howling wolf becomes clearly visible on the broad face of the stone. It is complete with the natural details of a mouth, eye and chin line. Most of the features of the howling wolf were already there when artist Kent Laforme sourced the stone in a Chemainus stone yard. It had been shipped there from up-Island by barge and truck, and since May it has resided below a cathedral of fir and Arbutus trees in Laforme’s outdoor Cordova Bay studio. It’s there that Laforme has slowly and carefully chipped away at hundreds of stone projects over the past 20 years.
The sculpture is called Soul of a Wolf. It’s actually from a piece of Vancouver Island marble that Laforme had seen in 2016.
“This is a natural piece of stone that a glacier pushed up onto the forest floor,” said Laforme, who trained three years on blocks cut from the Italian quarries of Pietrasanta. “This has been shaped by wind, water and natural forces.”
On Oct. 26, Oak Bay council approved the sculpture to be permanently installed at Cattle Point. Mayor Kevin Murdoch said that all they are waiting for now is approval from the anonymous donor who commissioned Laforme to do the Takaya project. But Laforme talked to them this week, and said they are happy to see the project move forward.
Instead of cutting the stone into a wolf-shaped sculpture, Laforme has retained the natural shape of what is a bulky obelisk. Takaya’s face is engraved in great detail on one corner, and he is adding details of kelp, herring, sea urchin, and possibly seal.
Takaya, of course, was killed by a hunter in March after an eight-year run on Tl’ches (Discovery and Chatham Islands). The wolf’s legacy continues to grow, in part because the end of his life was closely monitored following his failed relocation from his January excursion to James Bay.
Following the death, the artist patrons came forward to Laforme with the proposal. The search took Laforme weeks and at least a half-dozen trips up-Island before he found it again, this time in a different field. B.C. Marble helped him cut the rock to a level base.
There has been some question among residents regarding the process of Oak Bay accepting art donations as this is the second piece of public art to be accepted as a donation to Oak Bay in the past month. The Winds of Time, a 2019 ArtsAlive sculpture, was purchased by an anonymous patron this year and council approved its upcoming placement on King George Terrace.
Whether council considers a review of its process for public art donations the sculpture will go into at Cattle Point once the District of Oak Bay officially accepts the donation.
The motion approved by council invites the Songhees nation to attend a ceremony that Songhees can help design once the sculpture is installed.
Laforme worked with Songhees Chief Ron Sam and knowledge keepers Florence Dick and Joan Morris, as well as other members, to gain an understanding of their relationship with the wolf and the islands it lived on.
“When I look at the sculpture I don’t see the wolf, I see the connection with the Songhees to the land,” said Laforme, who visited Tl’ches by boat with Songhees knowledge keepers. “I couldn’t have done it without the blessing and understanding of the Songhees people. This is a project that had to have the guidance and support from Songhees knowledge keepers.”
During his visit, Laforme spent hours listening and learning to what Morris and her people have experienced over the last 127 years since colonial disruption.
Laforme is still collecting and considering how to use feedback from Oak Bay’s recent call out for the project and is also in the process of designing two “story stones” that will go with the installation. One will be chiseled in English, and one in the Lkwungen language.
“The story stones component will attempt to address the shared path, another stone on the Staqeya’s path – that guides and teaches us in my humble opinion…” Laforme said. “It’s built on mutual respect and varying understandings as we search for common ground.
“I’ve been a sculptor working in stone for decades and never have I learned more about the meaning or connection shared between a story and a stone, than I have from this wolf.”
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.