Art Talk: We Got Styles!

Conversations on Northwest Native Art

David Boxley. Photo davidboxley.com.

David Boxley.
Photo davidboxley.com.

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 nativex.com.

Shaun Peterson
Photo nativex.com.

 

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, http://www.qwalsius.com/

David R. Boxley, http://davidrobertboxley.com/

 

Contact Micheal Rios, mrios@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov

Shaun Peterson, Puyallup, Tapped to Make Public Art on Seattle Waterfront

The 'Welcome Figure,' spuy'elepebS near Tollefson Plaza, Tacoma, Washington, created by Shaun Peterson.

The ‘Welcome Figure,’ spuy’elepebS near Tollefson Plaza, Tacoma, Washington, created by Shaun Peterson.

 

Indian Country Today

 

Shaun Peterson, Puyallup, has been selected for a commission on the Seattle Waterfront. Peterson’s art is a showcase of Coast Salish traditions for the modern world, and he’s experienced in creating public installations. After the announcement, he took to his blog at Qwalsius.com:

I wouldn’t have foreseen this coming if you had asked me but it is here and it is now. I hope to make the most of this opportunity and showcase that Coast Salish culture is alive and well. That it is deserving of the land on which it comes from and that it will, as all art does, adapt to the world around it and will continue to thrive as long as the people exist in its region. As Chief Sealth once said long, when people believe our people have vanished we will be among you… something like that, I’m paraphrasing of course but the gist is, my art and others of Coast Salish heritage are making public works that will continue to be standing long after we have gone, and there is something to say for that. Today, I am overjoyed with the task ahead of me.

Below are a video portrait of Peterson, examples of his public art, and the full press release from the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture:

Artist biography Qwalsius – Shaun Peterson from Shaun Peterson on Vimeo.

 

Salmon Continuum Bus Shelter, Tacoma Washington, by Shaun Peterson
Salmon Continuum Bus Shelter, Tacoma Washington, by Shaun Peterson

 

 

Welcome Figure, spuy'elepebS near Tollefson Plaza, Tacoma, Washington, by Shaun Peterson.
Welcome Figure, spuy’elepebS near Tollefson Plaza, Tacoma, Washington, by Shaun Peterson.

 

 

Welcome Figure (night), spuy'elepebS near Tollefson Plaza, Tacoma, Washington, by Shaun Peterson.
Welcome Figure (night), spuy’elepebS near Tollefson Plaza, Tacoma, Washington, by Shaun Peterson.

 

 

Killer Whale (Aluminum), Puyallup Tribal Health Authority, Tacoma, Washington, by Shaun Peterson.
Killer Whale (Aluminum), Puyallup Tribal Health Authority, Tacoma, Washington, by Shaun Peterson.

 

 

From the Natural World, Puyallup Tribe Elders Building, Tacoma, Washingto, by Shaun Peterson.
From the Natural World, Puyallup Tribe Elders Building, Tacoma, Washingto, by Shaun Peterson.

 

 

SEATTLE (March 25, 2015) — The Seattle Office of Arts & Culture is pleased to announce that artist Shaun Peterson, of Milton, WA, has been selected for a commission on the Seattle Waterfront. Peterson is a pivotal figure in contemporary Coast Salish art traditions, and is a member of the Puyallup tribe. He has major installations throughout the Northwest, ranging from works created in wood, glass and metal.

“This is an historic opportunity to have an artwork by a Native artist on our Waterfront,” says Mayor Murray. “Peterson’s artwork will be a tribute to the cultural significance of the waterfront to the Coast Salish first peoples and our city. The waterfront will finally reflect the origins of our vibrant City and also the many peoples who made this region what it is today—one of the fastest growing in the nation.”

This commission, undertaken in partnership with the Office of the Waterfront and Seattle Department of Transportation, sought an artist to create an artwork that recognizes the tribal peoples of this regionfor Seattle’s Central Waterfront project. Peterson will work with the city and its design team to develop a site-specific artwork or artist designed space that reflects the Coast Salish tribes that have a historic connection to this territory. The budget for the project, inclusive of artist fees, is $250,000.

“Seattle is named after our Coast Salish Chief, and in honor of that I hope that my work will demonstrate that Native art is not static,” says Peterson. “Our people are part of this land and its history, but most importantly we are part of the present. The art I create will aim to communicate that, and in the process, create space for dialogue.”

“Shaun’s work embraces new interpretations of traditional designs, and his facility in blending both the traditional tribal art forms along with contemporary elements and materials makes him the ideal artist to envision the Coast Salish presence on the waterfront,” says Ruri Yampolsky, Public Art Program Director. “We are incredibly excited to have Peterson create a permanent artwork that will be reflective of the Coast Salish peoples and the region.”

Waterfront Seattle is the large-scale project to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct with 26 acres of new public space, streets, parks, and buildings. The public piers will be rebuilt as part of the Seawall Bond passed by voters in 2012. Peterson’s first major public installation was a 37 foot story pole for Chief Leschi School in 1996; it was quickly followed by commissions in Tacoma and Seattle, Washington.  He continues to explore the future possibilities of indigenous art traditions.

Peterson joins artists Cedric Bomford, Ann Hamilton, Norie Sato, Buster Simpson, Oscar Tuazon and Stephen Vitiello in creating a permanent artwork which will transform the waterfront. This roster of diverse artists will help to create a sense of place on the renewed waterfront that will act as an invitation to residents and visitors alike.

About Shaun Peterson
Shaun Peterson is a pivotal figure in the revival of Coast Salish art traditions. An enrolled member of the Puyallup tribe, and also affiliated with the Tulalip tribe, Peterson carries the name Qwalsius, originally carried by his great grandfather, Lawrence Williams. The name has been translated in two possible meanings as the Lushootseed language spoken by many Western Washington tribes has become scarce. The first translation is “Painted Face” and the second is “Traveling to the face of Enlightenment.”

Peterson is a Native American artist producing work that is a continuation of the ancient art of the Northwest Coast first peoples. While knowledgeable and invested in diverse tribal styles and applications, his focus and expertise is the art of the Southern regions that encompass the many tribes of Western Washington and Southern British Columbia known as Salish territory. Shaun’s artistic career began under the guidance of key mentors in the field of Northwest Coast art including master artists Steve Brown, Greg Colfax (Makah), George David (Nuu-chah-nulth), and Loren White.

Selection panel members and advisors:

Panelists
Tina Jackson, Cultural Activities Coordinator/ Kate Ahvakana, Suquamish Tribe
Barbara Brotherton, curator of Native American Art, Seattle Art Museum
Patti Gobin, Tulalip Tribes
Candice Hopkins, curator, University of New Mexico, Carcross/Tagish
Warren KingGeorge, historian, Muckleshoot Tribe
Cary Moon, urban designer
Eric Robertson, artist, Métis/Gitksan

Advisors
Heather Johnson-Jock, artist and Tribal Council Secretary, S’Klallam Tribe
Guy Michaelson, Berger Partnership
Steve Pearce, Office of the Waterfront
Tracy Rector, Seattle Art Commission
Denise Stiffarm, Urban Indians, Gros Ventre (A’aninin/White Clay)
Ken Workman, Duwamish Tribe
Nicole Willis, Tribal Relations Director, Office of Intergovernmental Relations

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Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/04/03/shaun-peterson-puyallup-tapped-make-public-art-seattle-waterfront-159871