Komokwa (Chief of the Sea) Mask by Kevin Cramner, Kwakwaka’wakw
Komokwa (Chief of the Sea) Mask, 1992 by Kevin Cramner, Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation red cedar, cedar bark, copper, abalone 20” high x 19” wide x 6” deep
Kwakwaka’wakw artist Kevin Cranmer was born June 22, 1967 in Alert Bay, British Columbia, but has lived all but four years of his life in Victoria. Cranmer’s first artistic experience came as a small boy when he would accompany his father to Tony Hunt’s original Arts of the Raven Gallery. It was during these times watching his father and other artists at work that the seeds of interest were planted that would lead to the many artistic endeavors that would follow. His first formal instruction came under the tutelage of his cousin George Hunt Jr. After a time, Cranmer approached master carver Tony Hunt to further his understanding of traditional Kwakwaka’wakw design. During his time with the “Raven Arts,” Cranmer observed and worked along side of such renowned artists as Tony Hunt Sr., Tony Hunt Jr., and Calvin Hunt. His first carvings consisted of smaller pieces such as plaques, rattles, and figures, before progressing to masks, feast dishes, model poles, etc.
Cranmer’s introduction to larger monumental sculpture began when he first started to work alongside renowned Nuu-Chah-Nulth artist Tim Paul in Thunderbird Park at the Royal British Colombia Museum. Working in the park had special meaning to Cranmer, since Thunderbird Park was deeply influenced by Mungo Martin, one of the most accomplished Kwakwaka’wakw artists of our time. Martin was also a relative, having been married to Cranmer’s great grandmother, Abayah.
Cranmer’s credits include several large cooperative projects; a 40 foot totem pole that stands in Stanley Park, Vancouver: a 30 foot pole on display at the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa; and a 36 foot totem pole carved for the closing Ceremonies at the Commonwealth Gmes in Auckland, New Zealand. Cranmer has been initiated as a Hamatsa, the most important of the complex dance societies of the Kwakwaka’wakw. In becoming a Hamatsa, Cranmer has become increasingly aware of the role an artist plays in relation to the potlatch ceremony. The Cranmer family has a rich history of potlatching, the high standards of these ceremonies being set by Kevin’s late grandfather, Dan Cranmer. The greatest satisfaction Cranmer gets from being an artist is creating pieces for family use in ceremony. So long as there is need for such regalia, Cranmer will continue to strive to fill that need and grow and learn as an artist.