NicolsonContainer Marianne Nicolson, Bakwin-a'tsi: Container for Souls, 2006.

Marianne Nicolson


Chosen by: Susan Rome, Coordinator of School Programs

“Walking into the room, this work always made my heart skip a beat. I was immediately immersed in the sea of images on each of the four walls that surrounded me and I became part of the installation. The large shadows on the wall, First Nations abstractions and animal designs, were created from a glass light box in the middle of the space. I never knew where to look first – at the myriad of oversized shadows on the walls or at the small carvings cut into the glass. It was overwhelming, yet strangely calm, to be inside the space.

The small bright light that emanated from the box was like a  candle that drew me inside. As I looked closer, I discovered that Nicolson had etched photographs on two sides of the light box and they too cast their shadows on the wall. The photos were old and weathered looking. They showed two girls, one of them the artist’s mother, at a residential school on Vancouver Island. They looked so young. What had they endured there? Where were they now? What was their relationship to this box?

The box represented a First Nations ceremonial box for special objects, drums, masks, jewellery perhaps… memories we must never forget.

I loved being inside the room. I felt that the images in it surrounded me like a blanket. I loved the symmetry, the repetition of the designs, the shadows and light.

Was I inside the box or outside of it? Clearly I was outside the intimacy and knowledge of the culture, represented through the designs, the photographs and the source of the light. But I also became an active part of the ‘container’ as my own body created more shadows on the walls. The work had dynamism. It had life and a sense of constant change as each new visitor entered the space. I never grew tired of being inside it.”


Marianne Nicolson, Bakwin-a’tsi Container for Souls, 2006. Glass, cedar, light fixtures. Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Purchased with funds donated by the Audain Foundation. Photo: Rachel Topham. This work was on display at the Gallery as part of In Dialogue with Carr, July 1, 2010 – January 30, 2011.

For over two decades, Susan Rome has been the guiding light of the Gallery’s remarkable art outreach programs for schools. Thousands and thousands of Vancouver school children have benefitted from these programs which teach visual literacy and art appreciation. To find out more, see our website:

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