In a stunning resurgence over the past few decades, contemporary First Nations artists of the Northwest Coast have established themselves as among the most dynamic and important artist working in North America. Challenging Traditions honours this success by presenting the work of 40 of the most celebrated living artists, whose achievements reveal an accomplished melding of contemporary vitality with traditional genres. The work of such acknowledged masters as Robert Davidson, Dempsey Bob, Susan Point, Preston Singletary, Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, Jim Hart, and Richards Hunt, plus many younger artists, is presented in 100 colour photographs of primarily new pieces, amply demonstrating that the historic strengths of Northwest Coast culture are alive, well and continuously evolving.
For more than a century, the state and church actively discouraged First Nations from pursuing their traditional cultures, but they persisted in keeping alive their art and ceremony. With the rise of cultural and political activism, Native art is now flourishing on an unprecedented scale. Many artists are examining the meaning and purpose of First Nations art in the twentieth-century, while following traditions and boldly experimenting with innovative subjects, techniques and materials.
Ian Thom explores these contradictions by describing the career, working methods and philosophy of each artist, all of whom he interviewed especially for this book. He also discusses at least two significant recent artworks by each artist.
Both senior and younger artists from all of the major First Nations on the Northwest Coast are featured, working in a variety of media and styles: groundbreaking abstract painting and metal sculptures, painstakingly woven spruce root hats and ceremonial woollen robes, works in glass, masks, carved panels, painted drums, striking political paintings, “Haida manga,” jewelry, carved argillite works and bentwood boxes.
This book is beautiful, provocative introduction to the best contemporary First Nations art of the Northwest Coast, in the words and works of some of its leading lights.
Published in 2009