By Joanna Bastian
The Methow Monument is rapidly coming together. Site layout and landscaping in the Pateros Memorial Park are taking shape by Wilson and Wilson Landscaping. Native plants provided by Methow Natives will soon be planted. The interpretive signs are in production, as is the salmon bake oven and the teepee.
The sidewalk tiles by Bobbi Hall are complete and can be previewed at the Pateros museum. The sculptures are nearing completion beneath a fire-breathing torch in the studio of Virgil “Smoker” Marchand, a well-known local sculptor with works on display throughout the country.
Smoker is a descendant of the Arrow Lakes tribe, one of the 12 bands of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. Smoker’s Indian name is Spa’Poule, which translates as “Smokey.” His grandmother often called him “Smoker” and the name stuck.
Smoker became interested in art as a young adult. He doesn’t recall ever being creative in his youth, but his brother Charlie was an artist and helped Smoker gain admittance to the prestigious Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. At the school, Smoker felt inspired by all the creative mentors and instructors. He found he had a natural eye for design. After his studies, he returned to the Colville Reservation to share his newfound gift as a community planner.
“The Tribes kept me going,” with the development of his art, Smoker explained. Starting with brochures, letterheads, a design of the tribal seal and the flag, Smoker moved on to bigger projects. He worked with community elders to design the museum mural, and illustrated children’s books. At some point, the drawings stepped off the page and emerged as sculptures. Smoker’s sculptures can be seen all over the country in city parks, educational institutions, and at historical sites.
For the Methow Monument, Smoker is creating a fishing camp — complete with drying racks and a fisherman spearing salmon in the dry riverbed. Smoker designed the 9-foot sculpture from a 1930s photograph of a Methow man spear fishing while seated on a horse.
Smoker began work on the sculpture on a Thursday, quickly cutting out all the pieces from steel using a plasma cutter before grinding the edges to a smooth finish. His uncle, Gary McClung, spent the next few days welding the pieces together. Gary, a retired machinist, does most of the welding on all of Smoker’s pieces.
The fisherman came to life from the inside out, as Smoker cut and chiseled the face profile before adding the braids and a wide brimmed hat. As the character emerges from a detailed sketch on a page to a three-dimensional piece, Smoker adds finishing touches: a bridle for the horse, an armband for the man. The completed sculpture will be a cultural icon at the mouth of the Methow Valley.
Another one of Smoker’s pieces, a life-size Labrador, is up for auction at the Whiskers & Wishes auction and dinner in Winthrop on Saturday (April 15) at the Winthrop Barn at 5 p.m.. The dinner and auction benefits OK-SNIP, OKANDOGS Adoption Coordinators, and the Animal Foster Care Cat Shelter. Tickets are available at www.ok-snip.ejoinme.org.