The title of this exhibition, Ka Ka Win Chealth, is the traditional family name given to Joe David and passed to Preston Singletary in a ceremonial adoption in 2000—its translation is “Orca Transforming” or “Wolf Transforming into Killer Whale”. Joe David is from the Wolf crest of the Nuu-chah-nulth nation and Preston Singletary is of the Killer Whale clan of the Tlingit nation, so this name aptly fits both the artists and this exhibition. The relationship between these artists has been an interesting one and it continues to evolve both personally and professionally, as they are close friends, artists, and collaborators. Joe David is one of the foremost Northwest Coast artists and an early teacher of form-line design to Preston Singletary. Joe was also the first recipient of the Aboriginal Artist in Residency Program at the Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Washington, where Preston Singletary introduced him to the world of glass.
Joe David has always been a nomad—his life has been a spiritual, artistic and personal journey that has led him to distant ceremonies, cultures and places. His collective experiences have impacted his work as an artist and pushed his exploration of traditional and non-traditional themes. This experience has been invaluable to this project, as he has a natural appreciation and affinity for the work of other artists, cultures and ideas. From the renaissance of the art of the Northwest Coast which was gaining momentum by the latter 1960s, he was seen as one of the core artists that reestablished Northwest Coast art to a level equal to the historic masters—and the strength of this built an international market for contemporary work. As a master Northwest Coast artist with a diverse background, he was invited to be an Artist-in-Residence at the Pilchuck Glass School in 2000 to explore the full range of the glass medium. He found the rural setting and the magical and creative environment of the school to fit his nature—he made many return visits and his teepee became a fixture on the campus. He offered sweat-lodge ceremonies to the staff and students, and assisted with numerous projects, as well as continuing to make his own glass sculptures. During these visits, Preston Singletary was introduced to the depth of culture and experience offered by Joe and he began his own personal quest into family history and stories and this led to an unlimited source of material for his own work as artist.
Preston Singletary entered the glass world in perfect step with the recognition of Pilchuck as one of the top glass schools in the world—and Seattle as a center of the market for glass art. He attended three programs at Pilchuck and studied with master glass-artists Lino Tagliapietra, Cecco Ongaro, Benjamin Moore, and Dan Dailey. Years later, he began to experiment with interpreting Northwest Coast objects in glass, and this new body of work immediately captured the imaginations of the collector audience for both glass and Northwest Coast art—the two dominant art forms of the Northwest. Other aboriginal artists from around the world saw his work and the potential of glass to interpret and emulate different materials—and especially the mixed media objects common to many aboriginal art forms. The international aboriginal glass movement began to grow with Preston’s work and career as the model, and he has been invited to lecture, demonstrate, and assist with implementing glass programs internationally. Preston assisted a number of artists with the production of glass pieces before embarking on a series of collaborative projects with such artists as Tammy Garcia, Lewis Gardiner, Marcus Amerman, and Dante Marioni. In 2009, a solo-exhibition of his work titled “Echoes, Fire and Shadows” opened at the Tacoma Museum of Glass and is currently traveling to major institutions across the United States—the accompanying book with the same title documents his career to date. While many artists talk about collaborative projects, it remains a rare occurrence. Preston has now successfully executed several projects—and all with artists at a great distance. Ka Ka Win Chealth is his first project with another Northwest Coast artist and is with someone with an established history of working in glass. It also brings together a mutual understanding of form, design, and stories that merge naturally between two artists who know each other really well.
We are pleased to share this important collection with you.
—Gary Wyatt, Curator of Northwest Coast Art
Gary Wyatt, Preston Singletary, and Joe David
September 9 - September 30, 2017
The Spirit Wrestler Gallery is honoured to be hosting the long-awaited second collaborative exhibition, Pacific Currents - New Collaborations in Glass and Jade, by Seattle-based Tlingit glass artist, Preston Singletary, and leading Māori pounamu jade artist, Lewis Gardiner, from Aotearoa (New Zealand).
In 2007, their first exhibition, Fire & Water - Pacific Visions in Glass & Jade, captured the attention of our audience with its ground-breaking collection of innovative artworks that merged new materials together in shapes, designs and stories found in both cultural art-forms. The originality of these artworks proved that creativity could overcome cultural differences and distances between the artists working on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean. The success of their first collaboration beckoned for an encore.
The creative beginnings of this second exhibition began many years ago but the artists' busy schedules of other exhibitions, teaching, commissions, cultural and family commitments, delayed its completion.
Over the years despite the challenge of being artists at a distance, their mutual artistic respect and friendship had kept the communication alive. Both artists were still intrigued to pursue this second exhibition and have the opportunity to further explore similar stories that existed between the Northwest Coast and Māori cultures. It is now a decade later and we finally have the much anticipated collection of 20 exciting new artworks.
Preston Singletary has been an ambassador for the glass medium to First Nation cultures internationally, including several trips to New Zealand to introduce glass to Māori artists. Glass is seen as a chameleon material that can imitate other materials including many that are seen as rare and endangered to the world and to the very future of certain artistic traditions. For the last 20 years, Lewis Gardiner has been a leading pounamu jade artist in New Zealand. He has accepted invitations to exhibit his creations in China, as well as in New Zealand and Canada, and still continues to explore monumental jade (pounamu) at a time of scarcity that limits access to a material considered a cultural taonga (treasure). Glass and jade are such compatible mediums as they are both translucent and activated by light.
We believe the ten year wait has been worthwhile as we reveal this inspired second collection, Pacific Currents, that continues to explore and develop on new ideas and forms found in their traditional cultural stories. Both artists have been inspired by the flora and fauna of their natural environment, as well as by the ceremonial objects that are both worn and presented in sacred ceremonial settings. The design forms cleverly blend Māori and Northwest flat design onto traditional sculpted forms.
We invite you to see the exhibition in person and to meet these two important artists who created this amazing collection.
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