When you think of traditional Northwest Coast art, you think of beautifully carved and painted totem poles, masks, bentwood boxes, canoes, and jewellery—decorated with traditional mythological creatures such as thunderbirds and sisiutls. What you don’t expect to see is a silver bracelet carved with the image of a raven flying away with a Starbucks cup, or a raven affixed to a wooden Celtic cross.
So why are First Nations artists taking traditional artistic forms and infusing them with modern cultural influences? Who are these artists? And what is it like to be a Northwest Coast artist in the twenty-first century? Challenging Traditions: Contemporary First Nations Art of the Northwest Coast, showcased a collection of over seventy pieces of contemporary art and investigated how artists draw inspiration from history and grapple with the challenges of interpreting traditional design and transforming it into modern-day Northwest Coast art.
Guest curated by Ian M. Thom, this exhibition has been financially assisted by the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund