Mythic Beings presents an outstanding collection of 75
compelling works, all in vivid colour, by 34 of the best First Nations
artists working on the Northwest Coast today. The power of their art
comes from its deep roots in an ancient culture that is rich in
ceremonial and aesthetic traditions.
The mythic beings
depicted in these 75 works belong to the undersea, sky, mortal and
spirit worlds: Raven, Thunderbird, Killerwhale, the chief of the
undersea, Moon, Volcano Woman and many more. Their adventures are told
in oral histories passed down through generations. Here, these myths
and mythic beings take shape as model totem poles, jewellery, carved
and painted boxes, painted drums, rattles, ceremonial robes and
masks—as well as sculpture in argillite, wood and glass.
Some of the beings are represented by works by
different artists or in different media, providing a glimpse of the
richness and resonance of an art strongly connected to myth and
spirituality. The challenge facing artists today is to interpret myths
in ways that combine innovation and tradition. That Northwest Coast art
continues to flourish both in its original cultural context and in the
international art world is a measure of their success.
Gary Wyatt’s introduction outlines the integral place
of art in the ceremonial and spiritual life of Northwest Coast
societies. He provides insights into the cosmology of the Northwest
Coast, as well as retelling some of the major myths. In addition, each
work is accompanied by the artist’s own words describing its meaning,
cultural significance and creation.