The Region The Northwest Coast is characterized by dense forests, heavy rainfall, and bountiful food resources. Tribes in this environment maintained maritime economies while also fully utilizing the mountainous forest regions as well.
The Environment Raw materials are available everywhere.
The Lifestyle Transformation appears in the land, the people and the beliefs.
The People Culture and tradition are passed down the generations by means of dance, drama, song, and ceremony – as they have always been.
The Old Villages The old villages disappeared rapidly after Contact. Disease, missionaries, government policies, and encroachment all factored into the culture deprivations of the 18th and 19th centuries. The majority of art that survives from this time period was stolen from the villages after government officials forced people out.
Potlatch Celebrations Potlatches are social and political events where rights, ownership and status are conferred. A critical aspect of social standing and the re-distribution of wealth within a community. Hosts gifted all attendants to ensure that the transfer of important information was witnessed.
Potlatches today • Potlatch traditions continue today. • Some details have changed over time, the arrival of Europeans brought many influences. • There was a time when US and Canadian governments and religious leaders wanted Native peoples to give up traditional ways. • Starting in the 1880s, when Potlatches and related activities were prohibited by law. • The prohibition was finally lifted in the 1950s, and ceremonies no were no longer secretly.
Formline Drawings Northwest designs are a visual language – the more you understand the language, the greater your comprehension of the visuals.
Elements of Northwest Design Very traditional designs have just enough information for the knowledgeable viewer to recognize the form being depicted.
Ovoids • All the shapes that comprise formline design, come from nature. • The ovoid shape is similar to the markings found on a stingrays’ wing. • These are the building blocks of northwest coast style –learn to see the shapes and you can learn to identify compositions.
S-Forms Sometimes the best way to look at northwest art design, is to just react to your initial thoughts. Often, the designs are easily recognizable if you don’t get caught in the details. Always start with identifying the shapes, then put the pieces together and look at the overall design.
U-Forms One of the most versatile shapes in Northwest compositions because they represent so many fundamental aspects of design. What are some of the these designs illustrating?
T-Forms Generally combined with other formline shapes to make body parts. Identify each of these…
Northwest Composition During the historic period, designs became more elaborated because there were more people desiring the art than knew the visual language.
Simplifying Designs Today’s designs are so elaborated that there is seldom a question in identifying a figure.
Traditional to Modern Designs 1. 2. Modern designs tend to show motion and fluidity. 3.
Tools Tools were so important and valued that they became artforms in themselves. One of the first things a young carver learned to do, was make their own tools.
Woodcarving Everything carved of wood was also decorated, even house walls, doorways, and storage containers. Such an abundance of wood sources produced an amazing variety of household goods and materials – all made from wood. The two main types of wood were yellow cedar and red cedar.
Canoes Carved from a single tree, the art of canoe carving was nearly lost until a resurgence in the last decade. Large enough for sea travel, they were used for hunting and transport.
Bentwood Boxes Created from a plank of wood, bentwood boxes are constructed in many sizes to house goods, store food, and safekeep treasures until time for public display.
Feast Bowls Designed to hold food, especially rare condiments like seal oil, for consumption and display. Used for public display at ceremonials, and for daily use in the house. Many of the designs represent clan associations.
Totem Poles • Also known as story poles, these tell the histories of families, great events and deeds, and even politics. • There are different types of poles: • Mortuary • Crest • House • Event • Insult
Carving a Totem Pole The log Stripping the bark Laying out the design Working on the figures Roughing out the details Finishing the front Working on the sides Working on the back Portland Community College Pole by Richard Hunt
Rattles Rattles were used in curing and healing, as well as ceremonial gatherings. Typically owned and used by medicine people, they represent a powerful interlocution between the physical world and the transformative world. Many of the figures carved into rattles represent the symbolic transference of power present in transformation.
Paddles An important aspect of maritime culture, also representing status and prestige – small paddles were carved to be carried in dance performance as a recognition of success in fishing.
Masks Masks are carved for a multitude of reasons, for dance performance, speaking in council, for clan and family representation, religious and ceremonial significance, even as portraiture.
Masks Some mask designs are intended for discretionary use, others for public exhibition. As in other aspects of Northwest culture, many masks are owned by families or clans and cannot be reproduced by others without penalty.
Portrait Masks Portrait mask of a woman with labret - indicating high status. Often portrait masks were carved to represent a loved one who had passed away. After Contact, portrait masks were increasingly created to meet the demands of the art market – especially masks which represented Europeans.
Transformation Masks These are articulated which means they have moving parts.
Dance Masks Dance masks are used in performance as storytelling devices in acting out clan histories. The beaks make a clacking sound when closing and require a great deal of strength to dance and operate.
Frontlets A type of headdress rather than a mask, setting on the forehead. Worn by men of very high status to show their role as leaders in the community. Elaborately decorated with inlaid abalone shell and sea-lion whiskers.
Argillite Carvings Argillite is a soft stone, much like a shale. It has always been used by the Haida for carving elaborate representations. In the 19th century it was used to carve pipes and dishes for the trade market.
Coppers It shows immense status and wealth to possess a copper. They represent the clan histories, associations and affiliations of the Northwest tribes. It would be a great honor to have one displayed during a visit, and to have one distributed during potlatch.
Button Blankets Button blankets developed after Contact with the use of shell and metal buttons and woolen trade blankets. They often represent clan affiliations and are danced in celebration. To some extent they replaced woven dance blankets.
Chilkat Weavings Chilkat weavings are traditionally made from cedar tree bark, mountain goat wool, and /or dog hair. Designs are completely symmetrical and one-half of the pattern would be laid out on a painted piece of wood by a male member of the family. The design would then be transferred into the weaving by a female weaver. Family designs and clan associations are the typical compositions.
Cedar Clothing Cedar clothing is made using both the soft bark and strips of hard bark. Capes, hats, shawls, blankets, tunics, and assorted other items can all be made from cedar.
Northwest Baskets Basketry is an accomplished artform, made from many different materials. Hats, gathering baskets, display forms and utilitarian items are all made from baskets.
Transitions over time… Carved wooden beaver mask, miniaturized and made into a bronze door handle. Wooden carved moon mask. Same mask poured into bronze.
Contemporary transformations Modern Northwest art reflects all the design motifs, cultural implications of meaning, and formulas of tradition.
Contemporary Carvings Carvings continue to be a mainstay of Northwest Coast art tradition. A resurgence of traditional art forms has revived tribal culture in recent years.
Northwest Coast Artists Artistic traditions remain strong in many Northwest families.
Bill Reid, Haida A great man, artist, and cultural leader of the Haida Nation. Raven and the First People Speaker’s staff The Spirit of Haida Gwa’ai
Susan Point, Coast Salish Well known for popularizing the inland Northwest style from the Coastal style.