Northwest Coast Native Art of the Tsimshian Tradition

Northwest Coast Native Art in the Tsimshian tribal style is a beautiful and intricate art form of the Alaskan Native people. At one time forbidden to be practiced, masters of the tradition have worked tirelessly on its revitalization and rebirth. Such work includes the study and understanding of the complex design system called ‘Formline’, as well as the different carving techniques used to create Totem Poles, masks, rattles, panels, bentwood boxes, and other forms of art.

Master Artist: David Boxley (Lynnwood)

David’s tribal community is in Metlekatla, Alaska, where he learned from his grandparents about their subsistence, hunting, fishing, and gathering cultural practices before moving to WA. As an artist and culture-bearer for over forty years, David has been deeply involved in the rebuilding and teaching of native art, traditions, and language. His art demonstrates that a culture threatened by extinction is still alive and thriving. He has produced thousands of works for patrons around the world. He is also the founder of a performance group that translates his art into song and dance while teaching and sharing Tsimshian oral stories through masks and other carved designs.

“Our art is an integral part of the revival of our culture. The knowledge and ability to create quality art is as important as saving our language, song and dance, all of which are a critical part of a cultural revitalization that was nearly lost.”

Apprentice: Dylan Sanidad (Seattle)

Dylan is of the Haida, Tlingit, and Tsimshian Alaskan tribes. He has taken classes and done extensive work with David on Totem Poles. He is also a main mask dancer of David’s Git Hoan Dancers group. He is interested in furthering his education on native art so as to make a living as a working artist.

“[I hope] To continue to carve and make my own style of art, sell my art, make art for my family and dance group, and hopefully become as good as David one day.”

Featured image: “Eagle’s Spirit.” The Seattle Times. 22 June 2017.

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