Tlingit Art A study of Native Alaskan Art Native Alaskan Tribes The Tlingit people lived in the southern panhandle of Alaska and just over the border of Canada into British Columbia. They were just one of several Native Alaskan Tribes. Some of the more well-known were Inuit, Eskimo and Haida but there were many others. Art in Everyday Life Art and spirituality are incorporated in nearly all areas of Tlingit culture, with even everyday
objects such as spoons and storage boxes decorated and thought to contain spiritual power and historical associations. The distinctive art of the Tlingit is reflective of their culture, ancestry, and collective histories. Like many styles of the Northwest native cultures, creatures from nature and mythology are displayed in various states of realism. Most forms are defined by features such as eyes, joints, fins, and feathers being fragmented with bold black lines, and filled in with red and blue hues. Historically, "art" as a decorative concept did not traditionally exist among these indigenous people. Objects were utilitarian, although decorated in ways that conveyed images of spiritual or physical activity. Totem Poles Totem poles are the most notable art form seen from the Tlingit people.
The figures featured on totem poles are comparable to family crests, featuring animals used in describing the tale of a clans history and mythology. However, totem poles can also be crafted in commemoration of an event, such as a birth or war. A deceased member of a clan, often a beloved chief, could also have their ashes stored in a compartment within the pole. Since the story displayed on the totem pole was typically decided by a former clan, the meaning of a totem pole can be lost throughout many generations. In addition, many of these works, up to ninety feet in height, were destroyed by Christian missionaries under the misconception that they were a form of idolizing the Tlingit deities. Fortunately, these unique pieces, artworks representative of the Tlingit way of life, are still being created to this day, often within the entrances of ceremonial
buildings. Aspects Tlingit Art Before European contact, the most common media were wood (often Western Red Cedar), stone, and copper; since European contact, paper, canvas, glass, and precious metals have also been used. If paint is used, the most common colors are red and black, but yellow is also often used, particularly among Tlingit artists. The patterns depicted include natural forms such as bears, ravens, eagles, orcas, and humans; legendary creatures such as thunderbirds and sisiutls; and abstract forms made up of the characteristic Northwest Coast shapes. Bear
Thunderbird Sisiutls Raven Orca Totem Pole Color Symbolism Each color is a combination of the listed ingredient and salmon eggs to create a liquid paint. Red Made from a variously shaded mineral called cinnabar. When used, it represents blood, war or valor. It may be found on animals that require it, for example: a red-headed woodpecker or the
tongue of an animal. Blue Made from copper salts and is most commonly used as the symbol for the rivers, waters, lakes and skies. Certain tribes used it for mountains in the distance. Blue stands for sincerity and happiness. Yellow Clays, moss, roots and tannic barks from Cedar create this color, which reflects the symbol of the sun, light and happiness. This is often a predominating color. Green Made from algae or juice from grass, it represents the trees and mountains, common in all Indian legends. Green may be made by mixing blue and yellow, or by adding acid to copper as well. Copper is abundant in many parts of the West and Northwest. Purple Huckleberries are a good source for purple, or perhaps mixing red and blue hues. Purple stood for mountains in the distance and general imagery. Black Charcoal or mud from sulphur springs is the base ingredient for this color, and it represents power. White - Used along with other light colors as a background symbolizes skies and spacious heavens. It
Choose Your Spirit Animal! Bear Teacher, often misunderstood, friendly, strong Wisdom, watchful, respected, perseverance - Owl Frog Spring and new life, communicator, stability, rich in life, survivalist Hunter, commander of the sea, family-centered, powerful - Whale Eagle Ruler of the sky, great strength, leadership, prestige, connection to creator Tricky, mischievous, credited for giving fire to man - Raven Wolf Loyal, successful, perseverance, powerful, heals humans that are sick Wise, creative, artistic & determined, builder of dreams - Beaver Make Your Own Totem Pole! First choose your Spirit Animal from the previous slide. Which animal do
you feel a connection to or which traits best describe you? Use the provided 7x7 piece of cardboard to trace a square. Inside the square, draw your animal. Use BOLD black lines like the Tlingits did. Choose from the traditional Tlingit colors to add color to your animal. You do not have to follow the colors that are on the previous slide. Write your name on the bottom of the FRONT of your drawing. Cut out your square and have your Art Discoveries Teacher tape it to your classrooms stack of cans. Your classroom now has its own personal Totem Pole!
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