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Item Name: Sculpture
Title: Hockey Player (Toronto)
Maker: Sam Spencer
Year: 1980
Country: Canadian
Materials: enamel paint on carved wood
Measurements: overall: 30.25 cm x 22.7 cm x 3.8 cm
ID Number: PC93.4
Legal Status: PERMANENT COLLECTION


Extended Label Info: Though unassuming and seemingly simple, Sam Spencer’s wooden carvings provide a snapshot into a unique cultural history of Canadian folk art and craft. Carving from a single piece of wood, Spencer drew his images from pop culture, religious icons and the natural world. In doing so, he contributed to the depiction of an idealized true north. Spencer’s carving Hockey Player (Toronto) is heroically enshrined as an icon that reflects the artist’s admiration and respect for this ubiquitous Prairie sport, reminding us that images like this often make their way onto the walls of kitchens, dens and recreation rooms because they evoke a sense of pride and identity. Spencer’s self-taught hand-made work helps to blur traditional lines defining fine art and craft. Arthur B. (Sam) Spencer was born in Worcester, England in 1898. Orphaned as a baby, he was cared for by his grandparents, and the family immigrated to Canada in 1903. Spencer grew up on a homestead farm near Punnichy, Saskatchewan, about an hour north of Regina. Home-schooled through Bible study, Spencer’s youth was spent working as a farmer, trapper, and fur trader, which informed his interests in nature and wildlife. He taught himself to carve at the age of 13, using a simple jackknife and a modified paring knife for carving finer areas. In 1941, after a lifetime of labour on farms and in construction, he retired to Saskatoon, and carved regularly. He filled his home with images of animals, pop culture figures, and religious stories. His carvings came to prominence through several exhibitions of folk art, including a retrospective at Dunlop Art Gallery in 1992. His works are held in private and public collections, notably the Canadian Museum of History (formerly the C.M. of Civilization).