Tsu heidei shuaztootaan, y’a yaa koosge daakeit, haa jeex’ anak has kawdik’eet.
“We will again open this container of wisdom that has been left in our care” - Tlingit adage
“I realized that there was a lot of dialogue about how modern art was influenced by art of ‘primitive’ societies. These artists tried to embody the spirit of the objects created by other cultures that referenced man’s connection to nature and the cosmos. This was a turning point for me. My work began to take on a more figurative and narrative style with a new intent. I found a source of strength and power that brought me back to my family, society, and cultural roots.” ~Preston Singletary (Tlingit)
I love this quote from Preston Singletary. It speaks to the restorative energy that gets harnessed through the act of creating. I believe this is why all art gets created; to fulfill a spiritual need in the artist. Imagine how beautiful life was for the Tlingit people when everything that was used in daily activities, from fish hooks and spoons to ceremonial regalia, was created with this spiritual energy by the hands of the people.
Imagine how rich your life would be if every object in your home told a story and represented a living connection to the entirety of your universe. Imagine a life that didn’t imitate art, but was indistinguishable from it on the highest most spiritual level. Perhaps I am idealizing, but in looking at the works of these Tlingit artists, from their totem poles and bentwood boxes to their paintings and Naaxein, I can’t help but wish for such a world, and appreciate the clarity and beauty of a mind that is capable of such dignified creation.
Alaskan Tlingit and Tsimshian, Essay by Jay Miller at UW Digital Collections