Monday, 24 February 2014

Medal Quest : A Vancouver Double

Eighty days to go before the Darwin Outgames, and Medal Quest returns to the subject of medal design with one lgbt artist who has designed medals for both the Winter Olympic-Paralympic Games and the Outgames that have been held in Vancouver, Corrine Hunt. I mentioned Corrine briefly in my article last year on the Vancouver Outgames. Here is a closer look at her Olympic-Paralympic medals.

A major factor in the decision to award the Vancouver Olympic medal design to Corrine was her work in traditional First Nation art of her native Vancouver Island and heritage. Her artistic background is as influential as is her cultural background. Four of Corrine’s uncles from both sides of her family are First Nation artists in their own right, and it was one of these uncles who gave Corrine her first interest in jewellery making in metal.

It was also this uncle who introduced Corrine to the history and use of art by the people of her First Nation ancestry, the Kwak-waka’-wakw nation. Through her grandmother Corrine also has ancestry from the Alaskan Tlingit nation which also has an influence on her work.

From her home on Vancouver Island Corrine went to study anthropology at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver City. In 1985, inspired by her uncle, she began making her own engraved metal jewellery. Personally, I find Corrine’s style pleasing to the eye and gives an organic nature to the metalwork which makes it come alive.

So, how did Corrine come to design the Olympic medals? In 2008 the Vancouver Organising Committee (VANOC) asked for design proposals. Corrine was one of 48 artists who submitted ideas. This group was then short-listed to 8. No actual designs were submitted at this time. Corrine’s idea that each Olympic and Paralympic medal should have a unique design taken from a larger work appealed to VANOC, as was her idea of using the orca as symbolic of power and strength, and the raven as an expression of speed. Both the orca and the raven are major emblems in her First Nation heritage.

Another Vancouver artist was chosen to help bring Corrine’s designs to reality. Omer Arbel is an industrial designer who developed the process by which each of Corrine’s medals was cast with individual undulations, reflecting the individual design on the medal faces and reminiscent of the rolling Canadian landscape on the ski slopes. This made all the medals doubly(!) unique – no 2 medals had the same design or the same undulations.

The Paralympic medals were made in exactly the same way, each one individual and unique. They were more square in shape than the Olympic medals and went through the same 30-step process of manufacture. In total there were 615 Olympic and 399 Paralympic medals struck. Incidentally, all of them were made from recyclable materials. The metal came from old computer circuit boards and televisions which would otherwise have gone to land-fill sites. There is an excellent short video on this website which describes the creation process of the medals.

Shortly after the Paralympic Games ended Corrine received the Aboriginal Achievement Awards for the Arts.

Less than 6 months later she was asked to design more Vancouver medals – a Vancouver Double. This time the request came from the organising committee of the 2nd North America Outgames. Once again the symbolic representation of the orca and raven, joined by the wolf’s tail, were used.

Turning Corrine’s artwork into the design to be struck onto the medals was a fellow lesbian artist from the Vancouver area, Carol Weaver. I hope to write more about Carol and her work later in the year, as she also fits in nicely with the overall theme for 2014 of music with her being a musician and music therapist.

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