Friday, May 20, 2011

NWC Stormtrooper by Andy Everson

The concept of fusing pop art with aboriginal art began more than 100 years ago with the work of the Post-Impressionists. This idea is not new within the Occidental artworld, and it is not even new within the Northwest Coast artworld. First Nations artists along the coast began combining traditional art forms (such as jewellery and masks) with colonial elements (such as Victorian floral motifs and subjects) shortly after the Spanish, English and Scottish settled on the coast in the late 1700s. One of the best examples of this cross-cultural art production can be seen in argillite sculpture. Argillite is a slate-like stone that is found on Haida Gwaai and is inextricably linked to Haida culture. Haida artists began carving argillite in the mid-1800s for tourists on the coast, and many of these early argillite carvings reflect the perceived interests of colonial visitors.

Artist, dancer, scholar and printmaker Andy Everson has been creating art since 1990 that plays with themes of assimilation, integration and interpretation. The thing that I have always liked about his prints, in particular, is that that are always playful. Even when Andy is broaching serious subjects, he does it in a way that is accessible and thought-provoking. I came across one of his recent prints from this year titled 'Warrior (Or: Harbinger of the Treaty Empire?)' and love how it is continuing this dialogue between entrenched aesthetic systems and the pervasiveness of pop culture references.

This print reflects the artist's own feelings as a "trooper" in relation to the treaty agreements that are still enforced by the K'omoks (Comox) Nation, Andy's Nation...he writes: This piece is a clear nod to a favourite childhood movie. I felt it was a great metaphor for the subject matter at hand: is treaty really black and white, or shades of grey? Do the “good guys” always wear white? Will there be a treaty empire and am I part of the rebel alliance? I did insert a glimmer of hope in the chin of the mask--a small cedar tree seedling that represents a rekindling of awareness and growth. 


Keywords: Kwakwaka'wakw, "Alex Dawkins", Vancouver, "Native Art", Northwest Coast

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