For thousands of years Northwest Coast Indians including the Coast Salish, Haida, Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw, Makah, Nuu-chah-nulth, and Tlingit peoples represented in this exhibition, have made art expressing their cultural norms and values with precision, clarity, and artistic exuberance. Using indigenous and trade materials obtained in their homes along the coast of Oregon and north to Alaska, Northwest coast peoples mark elaborate ceremonial life, social rank, and prestige through their objects and art.
This exhibition explores Northwest Coast art through over 60 objects made by known and unknown artists, representing traditional and modern forms of cultural expression. From model totem poles and bentwood boxes, to spoons, prints, and silver bracelets, these objects were created for different purposes––utilitarian, decorative, and ceremonial. What all of them share in common is the desire to preserve and perpetuate Northwest Coast cultural heritage and community.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website
Whether or not you go, Art of the Northwest Coast is a comprehensive survey of the Native arts of the Pacific Northwest Coast, from Puget Sound to Alaska and from prehistoric times to the present. Incorporating the region’s social history with the observations of anthropologists, historians of art, and Native peoples, this groundbreaking volume examines how the upheavals of European contact affected the development of a powerful traditional art. By exploring the distinct origins of each of the area’s linguistic groups and their histories, mythologies, and art forms, art historian Aldona Jonaitis reveals how a complex web of factors informed these groups’ varied responses to the changes and challenges brought about by contact with Europeans.