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