The bear chooses us. Indigenous peoples have always known this. Many indigenous nations organize themselves under houses such as bear, salmon or deer.
Each family is born into an animal with the duty to protect.
In this way, all animals are cared for. So, for those not falling
within this family system, an animal, like the bear, instead comes
looking for us.
Sometimes here in Whistler, this may mean a chance encounter
in the woods or along the Valley Trail, in the mountains or even
in the Village — especially in the Village, where the different
faces of bears stare out from art gallery windows. These odes to
Ursidae come in acrylic and oil portrait, 14-carat gold pendants
of black bear mother and cub and even an 8,000-pound Alaskan
marble polar bear. The bear has found these artists, and so they,
in turn, have taken it upon themselves to celebrate, protect and
honour the animal in their own ways.
STORY BY NICOLE FITZGERALD
Artist and gallery owner Jon Fathom grew up in Alaska where
100 days of the year were spent fishing. From his boat, Jon
watched bears roam the beaches: grizzlies, black bears, and even
the rare silver-blue glacier bear.
“When I encountered a bear, it was the highlight of the day,
whether I was hiking or even seeing one along the roadside,”
says Fathom, who now splits time between Alaska and Whistler
where he opened his gallery, Fathom Stone Art Gallery at the
Fathom collaborates with other celebrated carvers to showcase
the finest stone to create bear-inspired jewelry and sculpture. He
also hosts daily stone carving classes for kids and adults. Fathom’s
newest work is a life-size polar bear collection. The largest of the
three, a nine-foot, 8,000-pound polar bear entitled “North Star,”
Connecting with Bears