In 2003, the centennial year of Elizabeth Wyn Wood’s birth, her family agreed to adapt Northern Island for the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. Smaller replicas are now the CSHF Awards, which celebrate the creativity of Canadian Songwriters.
As an innovative young artist, Elizabeth Wyn Wood challenged the accepted notions of sculpture of her time, and spent her life exploring the possibilities of Modernism. Co-founder and president of the Sculptors Society of Canada, teacher and cultural organizer, she advocated on behalf of all artists, particularly for the protection of copyright
Born in Orillia, Ontario and a graduate of the Ontario College of Art (OCA), Wood reached beyond the traditional choice of statuary materials and created works in tin, pewter, copper and aluminum. She was celebrated for her war memorials, fountains, medals and sensitive portraits.
During her early twenties, Wood began to express her love of the Canadian landscape in sculpture, as the Group of Seven was doing on canvas. Her modernist interpretation of landscape became her signature style: in the National Gallery of Canada one can see her Passing Rain, carved in Orsera marble, and Dead Tree, cast in aluminum. The Art Gallery of Ontario displays her critically acclaimed Reef and Rainbow sculpture, which has illustrated many books documenting Canadian art.
Wood first encountered the North Country landscape in the summer of 1926. With two fellow OCA classmates, she was on her way by freight train to the Pickerel River crossing, halfway between Parry Sound and Sudbury. The train stopped momentarily to let them climb off, and they carried their gear down the rocky bank to the river. As the days passed, she was enchanted by the wind in the white pine trees, the waves on the reefs and the rosy, rounded granite of the island. Junipers and lichens accented the sensuous curves of the ancient rock.
Early in 1927, Wood completed Northern Island as the first of a series of “Island” sculptures which established her unique artistic identity. The critically acclaimed award reveals a rugged piece of rock, while a wind-swept pine tree gently rises out of the water. Northern Island is a powerful depiction of Canada’s natural landscape and articulates both elegance and a sense of strength. No other sculptor, before or since her time, has rendered waves, rainsqualls, clouds, rainbows, windblown foliage and glacier-scoured granite reefs in polished metal, on bases of black glass or marble.