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Northwest Coast Art

Northwest Coast Art
“Northwest Coast Native art has always had the power to enthrall viewers. From the first explorers to the present day collector, highly graphic and inventive Indian designs have intrigued and sometimes mystified observers. Distinguished by sophistication and complexity, yet composed of simple traditional elements, Northwest Coast Indian art has become one of the most sought after contemporary art forms.

Although grouped together as “Northwest Coast” the work of the major cultural groups – Haida, Tlingit, Tsimpshian, Kwagiutl and Coast Salish – show many stylistic differences. All Northwest Coast native art, however, makes use of local cedar for masks, monumental art, wood carving, bentwood boxes and baskets. Magnificent totem poles and house posts have become emblematic of the Northwest Coast and tell stories of a rich, ancient native culture.

The same traditional form-line designs used on totem poles and masks are now employed on contemporary two-dimensional art. Serigraphs or silk-screens sold in limited editions have become one of the most popular forms of non-traditional, commercial Northwest Coast Native Indian art.

Coast Salish artist Susan Point’s works in glass, and Kwagiutl artists Richard and Stan Hunt’s bronzes have also stretched the boundaries of materials used by contemporary Northwest Coast tribal artists. As prominent Haida artist Robert Davidson has said: “The only way tradition can be carried on is to keep inventing new things.”

Inuit

Inuit Art
Surrounded by a stark landscape, the Inuit people draw inspiration from their intimate relationship with the few indigenous animals of the Canadian Arctic. In a land of snow and rock, Inuit sculptors work with the limited materials available to them; bone, ivory, fur and stone. Despite the limitations of the Arctic, the Inuit have gained international acclaim for their striking imagery which is often amusing, occasionally disquieting and sometimes both.

Arctic Raven’s collection includes stencil prints and serious works in stone depicting Inuit hunting and fishing themes, as well as more whimsical dancing and walking bears. Swimming sea birds, whales, walrus, seals, caribou and Inukshuk complete the selection. The gallery’s Inuit work also reflects the enduring theme of transformation in the myths and artwork of the Arctic peoples. Whether changing from animal into animal or human into animal, these native sculptures represent the belief that nothing dies – it merely changes form.

In a frozen northern world where Inuit villages are isolated from one another by hundreds of miles of road-less wilderness or thousand miles of ice encrusted sea, distinct carving styles have developed partially in response to the limited materials available. From the primitive yet powerful basalt carvings of Baker Lake region, to the shiny sophistication of Cape Dorset soapstone sculpture, each shows a strong imagination and profound connection to the animal and spiritual realms. Arctic Raven Gallery features works from all the major Inuit carving villages.

“Dancing Shaman” by Alex Alikashua

 

dancing shaman inuit sculpture stone

“Dancing Shaman” by Alex Alikashua
5″ x 8″ x 3″ – $480

“Inukshuk” by Pitseolak Qimmirpik

Inukshuk stone sculpture - inuit

“Inukshuk” by Pitseolak Qimmirpik
4″ x 6″ – $380

“Orca Fin” by Lionel Samuels

northwest coast art sculpture of an orca fin in stone with eagle carving

“Orca Fin” by Lionel Samuels
9″ x 13″ x 3″ – $2,400

“Orca Fin” by Lionel Samuels

Northwest art - Orca fin carving with ravens

“Orca Fin” by Lionel Samuels
Alt View

“Salmon” by Albert Joseph

northwest salmon sculpture wood

“Salmon” by Albert Joseph
27″ x 8″ – $280

“Salmon” by Ron Aleck

“Salmon” by Ron Aleck
18″ x 5″ x 2″ – $850

“Grandma’s Sea Monster” – by Tony Hunt Jr.

“Grandma’s Sea Monster” – by Tony Hunt Jr.  34″ x 24″ x 10″ – $6,500

 

Alaskan Art

Perhaps it is the long dark days of the Arctic winter which nourishes the fertile imagination of the Alaskan Native artist. Using an unlikely array of animal materials, Alaskan artists have created several unique art forms including; woven baleen baskets, whale bone and walrus ivory sculpture.

Once grouped together as “Eskimos” these Northern peoples from the Arctic are now acknowledged as culturally separate groups. Beginning in the far north and west of Alaska are the Inupiaq people, to the south of them along the coastline are the Central Yup’ik and further west on Saint Lawrence Island and in Russia are the Siberian Yup’ik. Along the Aleutian Island chain the Aleut make their home. The Alutiiq Eskimo people who inhabit the Alaska Peninsula and Kodiak Island are close relatives.

Ethnically and culturally separate are the Athabascan of interior Alaska, known for the bead work and birchbark baskets. Although located coastally in Southeast Alaska along the Alaskan “Panhandle,” the Haida and Tlingit are considered “Northwest Coast” Native people rather than “Northern Alaskan” Natives. Their totem poles, masks, argillite and wood carvings are internationally recognized. Wood, scarce to the northern arctic, doesn’t figure into “Eskimo” artwork.