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Thursday, June 15, 2017

"Cultural imPRINT" Exhibit at Tacoma Art Museum Highlights Northwest Native Printmakers

Ben Davidson (b. 1976) Haida First Nation
Just About, 2014 Screenprint
281⁄2 × 181⁄2 inches
Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture

Ben Davidson (b. 1976), Haida First Nation, Just About, 2014. Screenprint, 281⁄2 × 181⁄2 inches. Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. 

When you think of Northwest Coast Native and First Nations art, you probably picture three-dimensional carvings, jewelry, or basketry, but an exhibition at the Tacoma Art Museum will expand your perceptions. Titled Cultural imPRINT: Northwest Coast Prints, it provides a stunning survey of printmaking by contemporary Northwest native artists. Artists from these indigenous communities have been exploring and innovating within this two-dimensional art form as a means of cultural and personal expression since the 1960s. The ancient stylized images of animal, human, aquatic and other forms seen in nature, and the typical colors most of us associate with native art, translate beautifully into prints. However, this display of close to 50 pieces also includes some most interesting surprises. 

Cultural imPRINT resulted from a partnership between Northwest native art enthusiasts north and south of the 49th parallel. Tacoma Art Museum's Haub Curator of Western American Art, Faith Brower, and guest curator and Haub Fellow, India Young, from Victoria, B.C., cooperated to create and present this wonderful display for the museum's visitors to enjoy. The works are presented with a theme, which Brower refers to as "intergenerational legacies." This exhibition closes on August 20, 2017 and is not to be missed. 

Marika Swan (b. 1982)
Nuu-chah-nulth, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation
Becoming Worthy—State I, 2016
Digital print
3⁄8 × 321⁄2 inches
Courtesy of Stonington Gallery

Marika Swan (b. 1982), Nuu-chah-nulth, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, Becoming Worthy—State I, 2016. Digital print, 283⁄8 × 321⁄2 inches. Courtesy of Stonington Gallery. 

"We really hope that our visitors are able to take away a greater appreciation for the Northwest coast region and a better understanding for the people who live in this area," Brower said. "We also hope that the exhibition is able to communicate the idea that a lot of these contemporary artists are able to honor their cultures and traditions through this artwork, and they are also able to find their own voices and bring their own experience into the artwork."

Many people are less familiar with this type of art in print form than others, et these artists have been very prolific. Young estimated the potential number of prints in circulation to be up to 10,000. She also mentioned that, while showing artists familiar to many people, the exhibition also shows those who "continue to share their specific cultural knowledge in new ways." 

Phil Janzé (b. 1950; d. 2016) Gitxsan First Nation
Robin’s Egg, 1981
Digital print

11 × 15 inches
Courtesy of Lattimer Gallery

Phil Janzé (b. 1950; d. 2016), Gitxsan First Nation, Robin’s Egg, 1981. Digital print, 11 × 15 inches. Courtesy of Lattimer Gallery. 
"It’s just an imprint, because there’s so much work out there," Young said. "We can only capture a small portion of that history and ongoing legacy."

Even that small portion offers a visually rich, interesting, and educational experience. You will be glad to have discovered this particular printmaking world.

"This show is filled with incredible work," Brower said. 

I could not agree more.

Click HERE for information on hours and admission, and please remember that every third Thursday is FREE between 5 and 8 p.m. The next third Thursday will be June 22nd, this coming week. Do you need directions or other information? Please see this "Plan Your Visit" link.

Robert Davidson (b. 1946) Haida First Nation
Before the Snag, 1997 Screenprint
58 × 44 inches
Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture

Robert Davidson (b. 1946), Haida First Nation, Before the Snag, 1997. Screenprint, 58 × 44 inches. Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. 
Two other news items related to this exhibition might also be of interest. 


Coming up on Saturday, August 19, 2017 


           Held in partnership with the Washington State History Museum, the annual “In the Spirit” community festival combines both museum’s popular festivals, allowing the community to come together and experience a cultural showcase. The festival features art exhibitions at both museums, a market and a fashion show. Be sure to catch the art exhibitions, as both exhibitions close the next day, August 20. Check this link  ( for more details on this event!

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