Contemporary Coast Salish Art


98 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 1-55365-104-9
DDC 704.03'9794





Edited by Rebecca Blanchard and Nancy Davenport
Photos by Mike Zens
Reviewed by Kathy E. Zimon

Kathy E. Zimon is a fine arts librarian (emerita) at the University of
Calgary. She is the author of Alberta Society of Artists: The First 70
Years and co-editor of Art Documentation Bulletin of the Art Libraries
Society of North America.


Contemporary Coast Salish Art, published in conjunction with the
exhibition “Awakenings: A Gathering of Coast Salish Artists” at the
Stonington Gallery in Seattle, Washington, in August 2005, sets out to
differentiate the art of the Coast Salish from that of the more
northern, and better known, Haida, Tlinglit, and Tsimshian tribes.
Characterized by two-dimensional design, Coast Salish art lacks the
distinctive “formline” of the northern style. Instead, negative,
carved-out spaces, with rhythmic, repetitive applications of crescents
and trigons create dynamic flow and movement in the compositions. Its
traditions encompass a rich mythology transmitted by storytellers, while
artists made the stories tangible by weavings, carvings, and paintings
on both ordinary and ceremonial objects. Spirits inhabiting the sacred
objects are believed to communicate the myths and legends of the people
through ritual and ceremony.

An introductory chapter on the history of traditional Coast Salish art
is followed by five others devoted to discussion and analysis of the
work of contemporary artists, either individually or in groupings by
medium. Native to both western Washington state and southern British
Columbia, Coast Salish art spans the borders imposed by European
settlement. Its trans-border nature persists today; the inspiration for
this book originated with carver Susan Point of Vancouver, B.C., while
the other 22 artists presented are mostly from south of the border. As a
whole, their work continues the artistic traditions of their people,
reinterpreted in terms of design, materials, or scale into a vibrant,
contemporary idiom. For example, Point’s original carvings in cedar
are sometimes translated into concrete murals or blown and cast glass.
Marvin Oliver, of Seattle, also works in hand-blown or cast glass or
cast bronze, besides traditional carved cedar. Others work in modern
materials like acrylic on canvas, while some practice the more
traditional crafts of weaving and basketry. More than 50 full-colour
reproductions throughout the text illustrate the range and quality of
their work. A brief bibliography confirms the welcome contribution of
this volume to the literature. This collaborative, multi-author title is
recommended for all First Nations and Canadian art collections.


“Contemporary Coast Salish Art,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024,