Lyle Wilson is a Haisla artist from Kitamaat Village, which is near the town site of Kitimat, British Columbia, Canada. The Haisla Nation is often referred to as Northern Kwakwaka’wakw; however, their historic artistic style has influences from various sources – notably Kwakwaka’wakw and Tsimshian, as well as developing distinctive qualities of their own. The name Kitamaat means, “People of the Snow” and refers to the large amount of snow received by this region. Tsimshian people visiting the Haisla people in mid-winter arrived to see people emerging from big houses completely buried by the snow so the name Kitamaat seemed an appropriate description.
The Haisla Clan system is matrilineal and although he was born into the Beaver Clan, Lyle was formally adopted into his father’s Eagle Clan. Due to the high death rates at this time, his Eagle grandmother formally adopted both Lyle and his sister to help ensure the continuation of the Eagle Clan. This was a small but important event, which helped shape Lyle’s view of Haisla culture.
Lyle was always conscious and appreciative of Haisla art, which was present in his formative years. In this regard, his first artistic influence was his uncle, Sam Robinson, who is a full-time carver. Fascinated, Lyle watched him and occasionally whittled to the best of this abilities. He did not pursue art as a possible profession until he attended the University of British Columbia. At this time, he committed to a career in art education, but found time spent in the studio more compelling – eventually leaving to pursue his own artistic interests at the Emily Carr College of Art and Design. He graduated with a diploma in printmaking and began to develop his individual style. This artistic style has its roots in graphics, but also envelopes his three-dimensional works in wood and jewelry.
Today, a renowned artist, Lyle works closely with University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology where he has further pursued his interest in replicating historic Haisla art for future generations to understand and visualize. Lyle has been involved with many important private and public commissions that have aided in the awareness of Haisla art.
Additionally, he has been involved in a number of group and solo exhibitions since 1981 both locally and abroad. Some of his public commissions can be viewed at the Museum of Anthropology, BC Sports Hall of Fame, Canadian Consulate in Osaka, Japan, Canadian Institute for the Blind, EXPO 1992 and at the UBC First Nations House of Learning.