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Alcheringa - Fine Tribal Art of the Northwest Coast, Papua New Guinea, and Australia

Northwest Coast original paintings and Northwest Coast prints by Coast Salish artist lessLIE. A celebration of Coast Salish contemporary art.


I live in Duncan

The City of Tokens

I am not james t. kirk

called 'Salish'

the almighty white god

of the colonial construct

called 'the Indians'

I am not a dehumanizing dumpster company

called 'Salish'

I am not a neo-colonial tOURist

attempting to park my Thunderbird

inside Thunderbird Park

I am not simon charLIE

I am not bill breed

saying that 'as artists,

the Salish were nuts'

I am not wayne subtle saying that

'Coast Salish art lacks ovoids'

The works in this exhibition are meant to counter the misconception that Coast Salish art lacks 'ovoids and other design elements and principles of Northwest Coast art. I am referencing the hypothesis of Peter Macnair that the concentric circles of Coast Salish art could be the evolutionary 'precursors' of northern style ovoids. As a contemporary Coast Salish artist, I view the concentric circles and concentric ovals of Coast Salish art as being Coast Salish style ovoids.

A motif in the works in this exhibition is eccentric circles and eccentric ovals. These eccentric (or 'egg-centric' as some would say) circles and eccentric ovals are floating northward, and accepting aesthetic acculturation from Haida art. The circles and ovals in these designs have ceased to be concentric and have become eccentric. In becoming eccentric, in becoming egg-centric, they are visually alluding to the birth of ovoids and c-forms common to northern Northwest Coast art.

As a contemporary Coast Salish artist, I prefer to perpetuate the traditional form and iconography of Coast Salish art with integrity. This is one of the reasons why some may be able to discern the influence of Susan Point in my work. My work is also significantly influenced by the work of Haida artist, Robert Davidson. I was particullarly influenced by Robert Davidson's exhibition, 'The Abstract Edge'. In Robert Davidson's work, I have been intrigued by the diverse ways in which he stretches ovoids. Some of Robert Davidson's ovoids almost appear to be half ovoid and half oval (hence, the esoteric exhibition title, 'oval and ovoid', while some of his ovoids appear to be completely oval.

In my studies of Northwest Coast art, I assumed that the term 'ovoid' was derived from the term 'oval'. In my mind, this would reinforce the contentions of Steve Brown and Peter Macnair, who have contended that northern style ovoids are derived from the concentric circles and ovals characteristic of traditional Coast Salish art. But a friend pointed out that although the term 'ovoid' is derived from the term 'oval' it is also derived from 'ovum' and partially means shaped 'like an egg'. This compelled me to be an egghead and meditate on the shape of an egg. My egg-centric meditations concluded that: salmon eggs, those most likely familiar to traditional Northwest Coast cultures, are circular, while other eggs are half oval and half circle (like some of Robert Davidson's ovoids), with the yolk inside being a circle. Although I am a contemporary Coast Salish artist who is aware that the term 'ovoid' is a part of the nomenclature coined by scholars such as Bill Holm, I do not consider the 'oval' derivation of 'ovoid' to be farfetched, nor do I consider the'egg' and 'ovum' sense of the word 'ovoid' to be farfetched. Many contemporary Northwest Coast artists have utilized the nomenclature created by terms such as 'ovoid' (although it should be acknowledged that the traditional languages of Northwest Coast peoples undoubtedly had their own terms for such design elements), and we do live in a contemporary, post-colonial and post-modern world in which Northwest Coast people eat eggs and are themselves becoming eggheads. For this reason, the egg motif can be seen in the graphic works of 'oval and oVOID'

As a contemporary Coast Salish artist, I believe that nature is our teacher. I look at the circles in nature from a teleological perspective, and attempt to mediate between teleology and Coast Salish spiritual traditions. I believe that the concentric circles and concentric ovals of Coast Salish art were inspired by the rain's ripples formed water, and the dendrochronological rings found in the gRAIN of trees.

when we see

the rain's ripples

when we see

the dendrochronological circles

in wood gRAIN

we are seeing

the language

of nature

the expression

of The Creator

the 'void' in 'oVOID' symbolizes visual punning

the 'void in 'oVOID' symbolizes negative space

the 'void' in 'oVOID'alludes to Robert Davidson's belief

that the inspiration for the art comes from a 'void'

A void which continued to exist for Coast Salish art until the late 70's when Stan Greene and Susan Point elected to work in the traditional forms of Coast Salish art. A void which continues to exist in the little literature which exists on Coast Salish art. Coast Salish art does not 'lack' ovoids.

With pride and love, I dedicate this solo show to little sister, Pamela Rose Tsosie.

I still have a heART,


Click on the image above to watch lessLIE discussing his work.