Gryn White’s aboriginal name Duugwi.is means “Strong Haida”, and he has descended from an impressive lineage of renowned artists. His great-great grandfather is Charles Edenshaw (1839-1920), a chief of thee StA’stas Eagle clan and who was considered the most influential Haida artist of his time. One of Charles’ granddaughters Lavine White, the daughter of Emily Edenshaw and Henry White had a son Greg Lightbown who is Gryn’s father.
Gryn is a part of the Raven clan and his crests include the Bear, Killerwhale and Shark (Dogfish).
His father was an argillite carver for over 40 years, but he credits his grandmother with the impetus to become an artist. At first, his parents tried to discourage him because the profession is unpredictable and it can be a struggle to follow in his elder’s footsteps.
Gryn pursued his passion and began to carve in his early teens by providing assistance to his father. When he completed school, he moved from Old Masset in the Queen Charlotte Islands to Vancouver to attend Langara Community College where he studied fine arts in design and art history.
Impressed with learning about contemporary art, he took this awareness of seeing and identifying negative space, balance, symmetry, shape, line and form back to the Haida design principles and applied it to the rules of formline design.
“I began to see the rules of Haida design as deeply rooted in our culture. It gave me the understanding of what Charles Edenshaw and Tom Price had achieved, and what Bill Reid has restored to Haida art. They became my teachers.”
“I want to create contemporary Haida art within these traditional boundaries. I’m not much interested in coming up with a new form of Haida art. I want to honour and feel continuity with the past.”
For now, Gryn is completely immersed in learning about the traditional formand exploring the tension between “old style” and original innovation with the intention of developing his own personal style. Still, he proudly acknowledges his strongest inspiration is his father and has always recognized that he wishes to be just like him.
Gryn continues to perfect his work and is continuously involved with ideas. He has filled many sketchbooks and credits the argillite stone with suggesting the form that it will take. As a perfectionist, he’s meticulous and precise, and he uses embellishments of prized Abalone shell, Catlanite and bone.
This is a meaningful art form for Gryn, one connects him to Haida Gwaii, his people and the land and animals of his island home.