Northwest Art Takes its Place on the World Stage
On exhibit at Central Library, July – August 2015
About the Art
“Northwest art has no stylistic relatives among other North American cultures (at least not yet – what archeologists will uncover in the future is unknown). However, we do see related art forms along the Pacific Rim: Maori of New Zealand and Ainu, an indigenous people of Japan are two examples that still exist, as well as the jade objects and stylized animals of the 3,000 year old Shang and Zhou dynasties, and the carved gourds from Huaca Prieta along the Peruvian coast, which date from five thousand years ago.
“Yet nowhere else in the world is the formline with the “vibrant stillness” of the ovoid found. It belongs exclusively to the Northwest coast following the arboreal rainforest from Washington State to Alaska and all the islands in between – especially Haida Gwaii where the art form reached its zenith. The map accompanying this exhibit indicate the native nations the native nations that contribute to this rich culture.
“What formline art strives to achieve is best said in Harda: “Likkyann isgyan sagwa isgyann Taongghwan xhaaida ghai,” that which include the creatures of the forest, sky and sea – the real spirits of the world. Humans are merely “xhaaidla xhitit giidai,” or common surface dwellers.
“Arranged in very deliberate orders, these creatures carved into tall cedar poles represent the heraldry akin to European shields and banners. And ovoids, U forms, S forms and L forms serve the same ornamental purpose as the carved lilies, scallops and fleur-de-lies of European art.”
About the Artist
Elbert Bernard Pair was born in Norwalk, CT, the third of four children in a blue collar family. His parents were Black southerners, part of the second wave of 20th Century Blacks whose stories were vividly captured in Isabel Wilkerson’s prize winning nonfiction, “The Warms of Other Suns.” He exhibited musical aptitude at an early age, and became a Jazz and Blue musician.
Years later while visiting Vancouver Canada, he got his first personal look at Northwest Art. It did for his eyes what music had done for his ears, and he knew he wanted to be part of it. The following year found him in Haida Gwaii, living on the “Rez,” studying carving and formline art with the great Reggie Davidson.
Want to buy something you see on our walls? Artists contribute 20% of sales made during their exhibit to the Friends of the Arlington County Public Library, to help support Library programming.
Learn more about Art Exhibits at the Library.