Challenging Traditions

Contemporary First Nations Art of the Northwest Coast

Ian M. Thom

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  • $64.95 hardcover (9780295989198) Add to Cart
  • Published: 2009
  • Subject Listing: Native American and Indigenous Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 176 pp., 85 color illus., 10 x 11 in.
  • Territorial rights: US rights only
  • Contents

In the past few decades, contemporary Native American artists of the Northwest Coast have made a name for themselves as among the most dynamic and important artists working in North America. Challenging Traditions celebrates this success by presenting the work of forty top living artists whose works highlight the exciting combination of contemporary vitality and traditional roots.

For more than a century, Native Americans were actively discouraged from pursuing their traditional cultures by both the church and state, but they persisted in keeping alive their arts and ceremonies. 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 Native American art in the twenty-first 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 works by each artist.

Both senior and younger artists from the Northwest Coast are featured, working in a variety of media and styles: groundbreaking abstract painting and metal sculpture, painstaking woven spruce root hats and ceremonial woolen robes, works in glass, masks, carved panels, painted drums, striking political paintings, "Haida manga," jewelry, carved argillite works, and bentwood boxes.

This book is a beautiful, provocative introduction to contemporary Native American art of the Northwest Coast, in the words and works of some of its leading lights. Among the artists and their work are:

- Robert Davidson (Haida)

- Alano Edzerz (Tahltan)

- Preston Singletary (Tlingit)

- Dempsey Bob (Tahltan-Tlingit)

- Beau Dick (Kwakwaka'wakw)

- Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun (Coast Salish)

- Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas (Haida)

- Shawn Hunt (Heiltsuk)

- Jay Simeon (Haida)
Ian M. Thom is a senior curator at the Vancouver Art Gallery. He has organized more than 100 exhibitions, written numerous articles, and authored or co-authored several books, including Andy Warhol: Images; Robert Davidson: Eagle of the Dawn; and Emily Carr: New Perspectives on a Canadian Icon.

Wayne Alfred
Sonny Assu
Dempsey Bob
Joe David
Reg Davidson
Robert Davidson
Beau Dick
Alano Edzerza
Philip Gray
Jim Hart
Chuck Ya'Ya Heit
Bill Henderson
Richard Hunt
Shawn Hunt
Tony Hunt Jr.
Philip Janze
Ki-Ke-In (Ron Hamilton)
William Kuhnley
John Marston
Corey Moraes
Peter Morin
Marianne Nicolson
Chester Patrick
Tim Paul
Susan Point
Isabel Rorick
Jay Simeon
Preston Singletary
Steve Smith
Henry Speck
Richard Sumner
Glenn Tallio
Tsymiyaanbiin (William White)
Christian White
Joe Wilson
Lyle Wilson
Michale Nicoll Yahgulanaas
Don Yeomans
Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun


"Every full-page color photograph offers a fine example of recent creations by 40 Northwest Coast Native artists.... 40 two-page essays...offer interesting insights into the biographies of the individuals and inspirations behind their work."
-Museum Anthropology Review

"Beautiful full-color photographs take up where words leave off- demonstrating how these artists use their grounding in traditional genres while experimenting with new subjects, techniques and media. The artwork is glorious!"
-The Book Monger

"Challenging Traditions: Contemporary First Nations Art of the Northwest Coast is a beautiful collection of essays about 40 of the most accomplished Northwest Coast artists working today.. What is clearly evident in all the portraits is that these artists are.. creating something new, something not seen before, and creating some increadibly beautiful and moving pieces of art in the process."
-Multicultural Review

"Looking back at the work in this collection has been a pleasure for it is readily apparent that Ian Thom achieved what he considered his goal. Just a quick look through Challenging Traditions will certainly convince you that this is the case. Enjoy."
-American Book Review

"This handsome book, subtitled 'Contemporary First Nations Art of the Northwest Coast,' is an important addition to the collection of any art buff or devotee of Northwest culture. The photos are crisp, the commentary thought-provoking and the works of arts themselves- hybrids of traditional and contemporary forms and methods- drop-dead gorgeous."
-Seattle Times

"A handsomely packaged coffee-table-book survey of Native American/ First Nations artists from Canada and the U.S. whose riffs on their tribal heritage incorporate everything from abstract work to pop art to traditional design."
-Seattle Times

"A beautiful collection of essays about 40 of the most accomplished Northwest Coast Artists (men and women) working today.... The book is filled with color images... which range in medium from masks to woven spruce root hats to abstract painting to metal sculpture to drums and bentwood boxes. What is clearly evident in all the portraits is that these artists are melding traditional ideas and images with contemporary materials, ideas, and techniques."
-MultiCultural Review