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In the Spirit

Regional Native art at Washington State History Museum

“Predator Cannibal” stainless steel sculpture by Robin Lovelace. Photo courtesy Washington State History Museum

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For the 14th year, Washington State History Museum presents a juried exhibition of works by regional indigenous artists. Twenty-eight works of art by 24 artists are on display, including mixed media, paintings, beadwork, textiles, sculpture, carving and basketry. Throughout the run of the exhibition, visitors can vote for their favorite work on view; the top two People's Choice awards will be announced at the free In the Spirit Northwest Native Festival Aug. 10, held in collaboration with Tacoma Art Museum and the Museum of Glass.

"Some (artists) have exhibited in previous years, including RYAN! Feddersen and Linley B. Logan. We're honored to feature artists who are new to the show as well, including Dan Friday's works in glass, and Robin Lovelace's stainless steel mask sculpture," said the History Museum's lead program manager, Molly Wilmoth.

Jurors chose "Predator Cannibal" by Robin Lovelace, Tingit, as Best in Show. "Predator Cannibal" is a fierce sculpted mask in stainless steel and abalone. It is a shiny warrior face with jewels on the nose and an expression that could easily scare little children.

"Full Circle Totem" by Dan Friday, Lummi, is a glass totem that combines contemporary glass forms with traditional imagery. It is sleek, smooth, beautifully colored in tones of green and copper, and it includes references to regional ecology and tradition in a humorous vein, as a little pot-bellied bear stands atop a glass vessel and lifts above his head a salmon and an evergreen tree.

"Generations 2" by Denise Emerson, Skokomish Enrolled and Navajo, is a print depicting four women in Native dresses, each with a baby in a carrier strapped to her back. It is done in a Pop Art style, with no shading in multiple colors on a bright blue-green background. The shapes and colors create a kind of semi-static dance across the surface.

"The Little People" by Carol Emarthle Douglas, Northern Arapaho, is a basket in coiled waxed linen. Amazingly, what appears to be purely abstract decorative markings turns out to be, upon closer observation, many figures of standing people, which become even more evident upon looking down into the inside of the basket.

One of the more delightful and intriguing pieces in the show is "Our Stories Are Mixed," a mixed-media sculpture of a kitchen mixer with Czech seed beads and found objects, including a glass jar with a crank handle standing on a stack of books. This work is by Cynthia Masterson, Comanche Nation of Oklahoma. The book titles and the mixer, which is a visual pun, refer to the people of the Nation.

"Bison Stack" by RYAN! Feddersen, Confederated Tribes of the Colville, is a black and white print that starkly and dramatically pictures the slaughter of buffalo.

I recommend seeing this show, and I recommend the exhibition in the adjacent gallery: A Thousand Words Worth: Washington Authors Tell Stories with Objects.

IN THE SPIRIT, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Third Thursday, through Dec. 6, Washington State History Museum, 1911 Pacific Ave., Tacoma,

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