Cultural imPRINT: Northwest Coast Prints Exhibit Comes to TAM

Worlds collide, cultures mesh, family legacies flourish, and legends come to life at the latest exhibit at Tacoma Art Museum, Cultural imPRINT: Northwest Coast Prints. The exhibit is full of vibrant colors and beautiful printmaking techniques.

The exhibition, running now through August, showcases a selection of approximately 45 prints by Northwest Coast Native and First Nations artists.

“You really have to see these prints in person to truly experience them,” said Faith Brower, Tacoma Art Museum’s Haub Curator of Western American Art.

Printmaking in Northwest indigenous communities spans a history of some 50 years. The prints tell a cultural narrative and also carry a multigenerational legacy.

About 25 percent of the featured artists are connected with familial ties. Some of the artists are even father and son and there are a few father-daughter teams.

Tacoma Art Museum

Faith Brower and India Young give a tour of the new exhibit at Tacoma Art Museum. Photo by Natalie DeFord.

The exhibit’s works were organized and collected by Brower in partnership with India Young from Victoria, B.C., who has more than 10 years experience working with such artists.

Both say it is too hard to pick a favorite piece in the exhibit.

“They all have such special memories,” Young said.

“They are all such incredible works and they all have stories behind them and stories of how they were made,” said Brower.

Many of the artists have worked to transfer specific, traditional aesthetics methods of carving and weaving into the realm of print, Young explained. Many studied and learned from family. Some went through arts programs and schooling.

Some of the pieces were made digitally and some were screenprinted, others were made through weaving or woodcutting. Some of the pieces use a spindle whorl technique, creating some cool effects with symmetry.

Many of the pieces are so detailed that you have to look closely to see deeper elements of the story.

For example, several of the prints feature a white on white embossing that leaves a beautiful yet subtle, soft image. It almost looks 3D.

One piece in particular, a lithograph entitled “Henslung,” by artist John Brent Bennett, Haida First Nation, looks like a fingerprint over an urban city skyline.

Tacoma Art Museum

A lithogram entitled “Henslung” by artist John Brent Bennett, Haida First Nation. Photo by Natalie DeFord.

“This shows how a person leaves a cultural imprint,” Young said, explaining how the print could metaphorically represent how cultures have collided and left lasting impacts in the Northwest.

She said she is very excited for this exhibit to come to life and to have the public come and experience these pieces for themselves.

“Even though there are thousands of these prints they are not typically shown in museums all that often,” Young said.

The exhibit is accompanied by several special events running throughout its tenure, including a community festival on August 19 with free festivities and a chance to see exhibits in both TAM and the Washington State History Museum. This event will also have vendor booths and feature a fashion show.

Read more about the exhibit and its related events online.

is a staff writer at South Sound magazine.
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