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‘Coast Salish Inheritance’ showcases Tulalip Tribal art
TULALIP — For the first time since the Hibulb Cultural Center and Natural History Preserve opened its doors to the public more than two years ago, it’s showcasing an exhibit that was produced entirely by Tulalip Tribal members.
“Coast Salish Inheritance: Celebrating Artistic Innovation” is a recently inaugurated temporary exhibit that features an estimated 150 pieces of contemporary and traditional Coast Salish artwork from close to 30 Tulalip Tribal members, according to Tessa Campbell, assistant curator of the Hibulb Cultural Center, while Mytyl Hernandez — who manages the center’s marketing, membership and public relations — noted its finite human resources.
“We have a very tiny staff, so everyone had to pitch in,” Hernandez said at the Hibulb Cultural Center on the evening of Friday, Nov. 15, during the sneak-peak early viewing of “Coast Salish Inheritance,” prior to its fully public debut on Saturday, Nov. 16. “We’ve had people here taping and gluing stuff together since this morning.”
Among the artwork on display were pieces by some of the kids of the Tulalip Boys & Girls Club, including Hernandez’s son. After Campbell noted that certain pieces of artwork by Tulalip Tribal members are for sale, Hernandez joked that her son will try to sell his own illustration.
Nearly 20 of the Tulalip Tribal artists whose works were showcased in the exhibit attended the early viewing, and almost as many offered their thoughts on the intersections of tribal culture and artistic self-expression through video interviews recorded by Tulalip Tribal filmmaker Derek Jones.
“A lot of what the newer generations do comes from the older generations,” Tulalip mixed-media artist Ty Juvinel said. “We’re more into graphics and photography and video, but we’re still imagining how life was like back then, and how our ancestors would interpret the world around them.”
“This is the first job I’ve ever hard where I love to go into work every morning,” laughed Mitchell Matta, who learned carving from his grandmother when he was 6 years old, just as fellow Tulalip Tribal carver James Madison learned it from his own grandfather when he was 8 years old.
“My grandfather taught me that, when a tree falls, it doesn’t die,” James Madison said. “Cedar is life for our people. Our culture is about giving life back, which we do with cedar by turning it into art. We take what’s traditional and give it a modern twist. We’re always trying to push boundaries.”
David Spencer Sr. uses his own mixed-media art to evoke “themes of birth, life, death and rebirth,” while carver Kelly Moses Sr. asserted that a Tribal artist should “always believe in yourself, and remember where you come from, because you’re upholding your people and representing the Tulalip culture.” Richard James Muir Jr. approached that idea from the opposite end, presenting his beadwork as a form of atonement for the period in his life when his addictions held sway over him.
“I’m here to put beauty back into the world, to make up for the beauty that I took away from people, but I’d need 100 more years to do that,” Muir said. “I won’t do any beadwork if I’m holding onto any bad thoughts or feelings, because all that does is pass those thoughts and feelings onto the people I give that beadwork to.”
Just as Muir learned beadwork in a reformatory, so too did Al Cortez hone his drum-making skills in a foster home, eventually giving his foster family one of his drums as a Christmas present.
“Every drum has its own story, of what took place during the hunt for the animal that gave its hide for the drum,” Cortez said. “I try to get those stories out of the hunters, so that I can pass them on to the people whom I give the drums. You should always thank the animal and the mountains, not only for giving you the animal’s life, but also for giving you a safe journey back home.”
Heather Gobin recalled how surprised she and her mother Judy were when the cedar dolls that they made won first place in the art show at the 89th annual Santa Fe Indian Market in 2010.
“We were told we’d receive a call if we won, but we didn’t get a call, so we thought, oh well, it’s still an honor to have taken part,” Heather Gobin said. “Once we went to the preview show, I saw my mom in tears, because it turned out we’d won after all. I’m proud to show those dolls here, for the first time in public since 2010. At the dolls we make have their own personalities. They all look like someone we know.”
The Hibulb Cultural Center and Natural History Preserve is located at 6410 23rd Ave. NE in Tulalip.