Art Talk: We Got Styles!

Conversations on Northwest Native Art

David Boxley. Photo
David Boxley.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Over the weekend of March 27-29, the University of Washington held ArtTalk: Conversations on Northwest Native Art. The event was free for all to attend and join leading scholars and Native American/First Nations artists as they presented and discussed current trends and recent research on the distinctive art traditions of our region. They examined the last fifty years of Northwest Coast art, as marked by the 50th anniversary volume of Bill Holm’s influential book, Northwest Coast Indian Art: Analysis of Form, and look forward to the next fifty years in an art form that is just as thriving and innovative as the cultures it stems from.

So what’s the point of studying all the northwest coast styles? Most objects were removed from their sources and were not well documented. They often reside in museum collections with little to no documentation, or documentation that is misleading or incorrect. The pure analysis of forms of objects that have been removed from their cultural context is precisely so that these objects can be reconnected with their cultures. By studying styles it’s possible to determine where on the coast an object originated. Sometimes being able to determine with some certainty who the artist was and what their names were even when documentation is missing or incorrect.

The symposium began on Friday, March 27 at 7:00 p.m. with a keynote program by Dr. Robin Wright and artists Qwalsius Shaun Peterson (Puyallup/Tulalip) and David R. Boxley (Tsimshian) discussing the past 50 years of Northwest Coast Native art, including the impact of Bill Holm’s influential book.

Boxley has spent his life researching and practicing northern Northwest Coast style, the Tsimshian language and dance, and in particular the subtleties and variations of the Tsimshian art style he has come to master. Boxley just returned from Juneau, Alaska where he and his father, David A. Boxley, have installed the first fully carved and painted Tsimshian house-front in modern time. It is one of the largest, if not the largest, carved-and-painted Tsimshian house front in the world.

“If the art is going to move forward then we have to get back to where it was when it got stuck,” says Boxley, referring to the period that Native American culture was banned when the missionaries and boarding schools took root. “Once we can understand, to the best of our abilities, how things went together before that era then whatever comes next will be the natural progression. So the art, this very visual thing that our people could grab onto and be proud of, is what led to the revival of our culture. Now that the art has reached the point where quality is really being pushed, maintaining a certain quality that the collections market pushed to create, we’ve really been able to bring a lot of our culture back.

“The thing for us now is to make sure it’s attached to what we are doing culturally. Because the art nearly preceded our modern cultural practices, we now have to assign meaning and the depth of it all into our everyday lives. It’s been a really long journey and something I am very honored to be a part of it. We all find reasons to do what we do. There’s the pride we feel in reclaiming what belongs to us, and then there’s the simple things like knowing if we work hard our ancestors will be proud of us.”


Shaun Peterson Photo
Shaun Peterson


Peterson is a Puyallup and Tulalip artist who carves, paints and works in many forms in digital media. Peterson is a pivotal figure in contemporary Coast Salish art traditions, and has major installations throughout the Northwest, ranging from works created in wood, glass and metal. Just last month Peterson was chosen by Seattle Office of Arts & Culture for the tribal commission on the new Seattle waterfront. Peterson is also a founding member of the Bill Holm Center’s advisory board and in 2014 published an essay titled Coast Salish Design: an anticipated southern analysis.

“I’ve studied Salish artwork very intently now for twenty years, and having these intense conversations with masters of their craft. It’s through those conversations, the oral tradition of our culture, looking at things and observing these things that have been so important in sustaining and advancing our culture,” Peterson says of stretching the limits of styles and breaking out of limitations and expectations while honoring our ancestors. “Our culture reflects and informs what we make. There are fewer examples of southern Northwest Coast work because for a very long time our art was strictly created for ceremony and inner-tribal use, not for collecting and public consumption. What’s changed in the last fifteen to twenty years is that our people are more free to create work in the public realm and as more artists master their craft the boundaries of what we know to be traditional guidelines will continue to be pushed.”


To see the stunning visual displays that these two well renowned Native American artists, please visit their websites:

Shaun Peterson,

David R. Boxley,


Contact Micheal Rios,

Superheroes in Salish Design

Native artist Jeffrey Veregge embraces his nerdiness

Monica Brown, TulalipNews

Bio-shot-newJeffrey Veregge, a Port Gamble S’Klallam tribal member, has been creating art for most of his life. A few years ago, after exploring different art techniques, Jeffrey decided to mix two art forms he admires most, Salish form line with comic book super heroes and Sci-Fi. “I took what I like of Salish form line design, the elements and the spirit of it and decided to mix it with what I do as an artist and put my own take on it,” said Jeffrey about his latest art pieces.

His earlier work had a Picasso-esque theme that centered on native images. “I love cubist art. I like that it is messy but to be honest my heart wasn’t behind it [his earlier work], it wasn’t a true reflection of me,” explained Jeffrey. After taking a yearlong break to learn how to accept his nerd side, Jeffrey began to embrace his love of comic books, action figures and science fiction by recreating his favorite characters in the Salish design.

“Salish form line is beautiful and this felt like a natural extension. Comic books, Star Wars and all this stuff are equivalent to modern day myths and Salish art tells stories and myths,” said Jeffrey.

The sleek lines of the Salish design applied to superheroes such as Batman and Spiderman give them a solid and defined silhouette against a simple background. Because the placing of empty space against the background and the color contrast are both well thought out, the figures convey a sense of power and motion to the viewer. “I want to represent the comic characters in a good and noble way which they were intended,” said Jeffrey.

Last Son
Last Son
Courtesy of Jeffrey Veregge

Jeffrey is surprised and grateful for the success of his art, “A lot of native comic fans have approached me; a lot of support and wonderful emails, along with school programs asking for me to come show my work to inspire the students,” said Jeffrey.  With the support from the fans he intends to recreate many more comic and Sci-Fi characters. Currently in the works are Iron man and possibly Deapool. Jeffrey is also organizing his attendance to the Tacoma Jet City Comic Show this November, where he will have a booth and be doing an exclusive print for the show and to Seattle’s Emerald City Comicon March 2014.

Jeffrey studied Industrial Design at Seattle’s Art institute and the Salish form line from Master Carver David Boxley, a Tsimshian native from Metlakatla, Alaska. Prints are available for purchase through his website, . T-shirt designs and baseball hats will be available for purchase soon.

His art can be seen at, In the Spirit: Contemporary Northwest Native Arts Exhibit located in Tacoma, at the LTD Art Gallery in Seattle, The Burke Museum and The Washington State History Museum. Other recent art commissions include a piece commissioned for the Tulalip Youth Center for their Suicide prevention campaign, a Steer Clear campaign with the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board and a double sided mural in Edmonton, Alberta.

For more information please visit

Scarlett BlurCourtesy of Jeffrey Veregge
Scarlett Blur
Courtesy of Jeffrey Veregge