Tacoma Art Museum’s Haub Curator of Western American Art, Faith Brower, has partnered with guest curator and Haub Fellow, India Young, from Victoria, B.C., to present this selection of approximately 50 prints.
For generations, Northwest Coast Native American and First Nations artists developed visual languages made up of colors, lines, shapes and space. These centuries-old designs can be recognized on cultural objects including basketry, carvings, blankets, and jewelry. When Northwest Coast artists began printmaking in the 1960s, they translated their graphic languages onto a flat surface. The reproducible print medium raised visibility for Indigenous arts in the Northwest and beyond.
This exhibition provides a survey of Indigenous artists who have defined six decades of printmaking in the Pacific Northwest. Through their prints, these artists share knowledge about the diverse cultures in the region, while sustaining their art and history. Some of this artwork focuses on culturally specific design motifs that can identify a nation or tribe within the region. Others affirm how artists have used the print medium to reexamine the role of women’s histories within Northwest Coast communities. Still other works illuminate the passing of knowledge between generations.
Some of the printmaking from the Northwest Coast can be immediately recognized by high-contrast, black and red graphics. Despite some assumptions that Northwest Coast art is limited to this kind of imagery, Indigenous printmaking in the region has always been exploratory and innovative. Through the print medium artists expand on their visual languages to create works that broaden the scope of Northwest Coast art.
Top to bottom: Marika Swan (b. 1982), Nuu-chah-nulth, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, Becoming Worthy—State I, 2016. Digital print, 28⅜ × 32½ inches. Courtesy of Stonington Gallery. Ben Davidson (b. 1976), Haida First Nation, Just About (detail), 2014. Screenprint, 28½ × 18½ inches. Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture.