New Schaefer exhibit celebrates British Columbia’s indigenous artists

“Making a B Line to Haidabucks, Salmonberry Frap” by Sonny Assu -- Photo courtesy the MACC

A new exhibition honoring indiginous artists from the Northwest Coast of Canada opens Sunday, June 16 and runs through Aug. 11, and is the first organized exhibit of Northwest Coast indigenous artists to visit Maui.

“First Nations Art of British Columbia” brings inspiring traditional and contemporary work from artists whose highly sophisticated design and craftsmanship are showcased through woodcarving, painting, printmaking, textiles and basketry.

The First Nations art is among the most vivid, storied and distinctive work in North America. It is rich in tradition and is continually evolving in response to cultural circumstances. This facilitates the emergence of new tools, techniques and materials, along with the reinterpretation of traditional practices.

This exhibition includes the artwork of established, mid-career and emerging Northwest Coast First Nations artists who have a deep respect for traditional practice, yet are keenly aware of their relationship to history and their place in contemporary First Nations culture. It is a showcase of the artists’ unique interpretations, technical excellence and mastery of materials as they explore both traditional artwork and the social, cultural and political activism of contemporary Northwest Coast art and design.

Participating artists include:

“Raven and First Men” by Ben Davidson -- Photo courtesy the MACC

• Sonny Assu is a painter, printmaker and installation artist of the Heiltsuk Nation, Ligwilda’xw Territory.

• Dempsey Bob is a celebrated elder and leader as well as a master carver of the Tahltan and Tlingit Nations.

• Corey Bulpitt is a multidisciplinary Haida Nation artist who works in wood carving, jewelry, painting and tattooing.

• Brenda Crabtree, the cultural advisor on this exhibition, is a weaver and fiber artist of the Nlaka’pamux Nation.

• Ben Davidson, of the Haida Nation, is a multidisciplinary artist who works in wood carving, painting, jewelry and casting.

• Shawn Hunt, of the Heiltsuk Nation, is a multidisciplinary artist who works in wood carving, painting, jewelry and digital media.

• Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun is a contemporary painter and social activist of the Coast Salish and Okanagan Nations.

• Xwalacktun, of the Coast Salish Kwakiutl and Squamish Nations, is a multidisciplinary artist who works in wood carving, stone, glass and metals.

Additional works in this exhibition are on loan from the Kovalik Family Collection from Blaine, Wash. Nancy and her late husband, Joe, began collecting indigenous Northwest Coast art in 1989. After cultivating meaningful relationships with many artists, they were invited to participate in cultural events and were adopted into the clans of the Haida Nation.

Indigenous peoples of the Northwest Coast of British Columbia and Native Hawaiians share a similar history of contact and colonization in the 18th and 19th centuries. Native Hawaiians traveled to the Northwest Coast as crew on European trading ships. Many settled in the region, worked in the fur trade and married First Nations women. The connection between the cultures is part of a shared history.

Many of the artists will attend the exhibitions and participate in discussions and workshops. Exposure to the work of others, the dialogue and exchange of ideas, contact with new cultures and social realities, and the camaraderie that is part of the experience leads to a cross-cultural pollination that builds new allegiances and friendships, and creates opportunities for further collaboration. The experience provides inspiration for artists, helps to fuel and enhance their practice, and connects an international profile of participating artists, curators, and project team members.

The “First Nations Art of British Columbia” exhibition will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is free.

For more information about the exhibit, visit the box office, call 243-4288 or go online to www.mauiarts.org.