Lyle Wilson is a Haisla artist from Kitamaat Village, which is near the town site of Kitamat, British Columbia, Canada. The Haisla tribe is often referred to as Northern Kwakiutl, however, their historic artistic style has influences from various sources – notable Kwakiutl 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 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 his 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 personal style. This artistic style has its roots in graphics, but also envelops his three-dimensional works in wood and jewelry.