Abstract

On the Northwest Coast of North America, artwork has always documented identity; relationships with each other, the earth, and the supernatural; and histories held by individuals, clans, or Nations—spanning back to time immemorial. Artists use local and introduced materials and embrace new mediums to represent how to make some sense out of the world. These artworks reflect complicated relationships that artists navigated with European and British explorers, settlers, colonial administrators, and visitors during a period when communities were grappling with fundamental changes in social practices and cultural expressions. Published histories of art from these regions represent historically selective collecting practices and inform what appears to be—but what was not—the full range of artistic production. Scholarship and exhibitions must represent the full range of aesthetic creations unstifled by biased conceptions of what constitutes Northwest Coast “art” in order to fully explore the cosmopolitan expressions of First Nations' imagery.

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