Monthly Archives: January 2015

Bill Holm’s Northwest Coast Indian Art

PrintBill Holm, Professor Emeritus of Art History, and Curator Emeritus of Northwest Coast Indian Art at the Burke Museum, is recognized internationally as one of the most knowledgeable experts in the field of Northwest Coast Native art history. His groundbreaking book, Northwest Coast Indian Art: An Analysis of Form, was originally published in 1965 and is credited with having drawn numerous artists into their own practice of Northwest Coast art. The 50th anniversary edition of this classic work offers color illustrations for a new generation of readers along with reflections from contemporary Northwest Coast artists about the impact of this book.

In this excerpt from the preface, Holm reflects on the book’s legacy and adds a note about its formation:

Holm's original cover with his correction.

Holm’s original cover with his correction.

As I look back on five decades of Northwest Coast Indian Art: An Analysis of Form there really isn’t much that I would change today. I suppose that if I had guessed that it would become a kind of hand book for Northwest Coast Native artists, rather than a somewhat technical analysis of the characteristics of Northern Northwest Coast art, I might have written it differently. Probably the first thing I would have changed would be the title, adding the word “Northern” before “Northwest Coast.” Although the geographical limits of the tradition are stated a number of times in the text, artists and some others using it have often skipped the words in favor of the pictures. The result has been that many have assumed that the art tradition described was pan-coastal.

I probably would change a few terms too, and perhaps correct a few questionable statements. My goal in inventing terminology was always to try for really descriptive words. That I sometimes failed to succeed, I regret today. For example, the term “salmon-trout’s head” was lifted bodily from George Emmons’s list of terms given him by Tlingit weavers. I tend now to call this and related design elements “elaborated inner ovoids,” since they almost never represent a fish’s head.  Similarly the design representing a wide, frontal face with long, narrow nostrils, that I referred to as a “double eye structure,” I now call a “two step structure,” referring to the unique arrangement of the formlines delineating the corners of the mouth and nostrils of the face. And its related term, the former “single eye structure” is now the “one step structure.” On the other hand, I still hold to the descriptive terms “tertiary line” and “T-shaped” relief over the terms often used by contemporary Northwest Coast artists, “fine line” and “trigon,” believing that the old terms are more descriptive of the figures’ functions.

Wooden bowl, Haida. The interrelation of two-dimensional design with sculptural form is well illustrated in this frog bowl by the master Haida carver, Charles Edensaw. University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology A7054.

Wooden bowl, Haida. The interrelation of two-dimensional design with sculptural form is well illustrated in this frog bowl by the master Haida carver, Charles Edensaw. University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology A7054.

As the characteristic shapes and arrangements of the elements of northern Northwest Coast two-dimensional art began to become familiar to me I came to the realization that there was a sort of grammar or syntax to it that was not unlike that of a written language.  There were “rules” that transcended tribal and linguistic boundaries on the northern coast and that were followed in remarkable uniformity by artists of all the tribes of the area. Like a written language, it allowed individual variation while still conforming to the rules. Just as a proper and proficient use of writing doesn’t guarantee a great poem or gripping novel, the “rules” of the northern Northwest Coast “formline” don’t automatically result in great art. That is left to the artist.

A short history of the genesis of Analysis of Form is included in the preface. Here I would like to elaborate just a bit. After having completed the work for a Fine Arts Master’s Degree in Painting under the GI Bill, I cast about for a job.  I liked teaching so went back to school to qualify for a teaching certificate. A requirement at that time was that I return to class after a year of teaching. By that time I had a pretty good understanding of the characteristics of the formline system, so I approached my longtime friend, Dr. Erna Gunther, then Chairman of the Anthropology Department and Director of the Washington State Museum (now the Burke Museum) with the proposal that I take a Graduate Research Course from her and write a paper, the subject being “The structure of Northwest Coast Indian two-dimensional art.”

Woven spruce root hat, Haida. A configurative design of a split wolf is painted around the hat in black, red, and blue-green. Private collection.

Woven spruce root hat, Haida. A configurative design of a split wolf is painted around the hat in black, red, and blue-green. Private collection.

Dr. Gunther readily agreed, and the result was the basis for “An Analysis of Form.” The paper lay fallow for half a dozen years, when I was urged by friends to try to publish it. It sounded like a good idea, but I began to realize that it was incomplete, lacking any kind of documentation. It was all in my head. Again I went to Dr. Gunther for advice. This was in the days before personal computers, and she suggested that I try Keysort Cards  to record characteristics and organize the results. I recorded characteristics of 392 specimens on 400 cards and used the results to fine-tune my conclusions.  Then, what to do?

I had no idea of how to proceed toward publishing the study.  One day I was in a laboratory in the Burke Museum, visiting a friend who had generously let me use a picture of a contemporary silver bracelet he owned as an illustration of how the design system had broken down.  Dr. Walter Fairservis, then the director of the Burke, was in the room and heard our conversation.

He came over and asked me what we were talking about.  Dr. Fairservis, an Asian and Near Eastern specialist, was being unfairly criticized by some members of the public for not exhibiting more of the museum’s Northwest Coast collections. I briefly described my study to him. He turned, picked up the phone and dialed it. He spoke — “Hello Don (Don Ellegood, Director of the University of Washington Press), we have a great manuscript here on the art of the Indians of the Northwest Coast.”

And the rest is history…

Upcoming Symposium
March 27-29, 2015

ArtTalk—Conversations with Northwest Native Art is organized by the Bill Holm Center for the Study of Northwest Coast Art and will bring together leading scholars and Native American/First Nations artists to present and discuss current trends and recent research on the distinctive art traditions of our region, both to examine the last fifty years of Northwest Coast art, as marked by the 50th anniversary volume of Bill Holm’s Northwest Coast Indian Art: An Analysis of Form, and to look forward to the next fifty years.

The symposium will accompany the exhibition Here & Now: Native Artists Inspired which marks the tenth anniversary of the Bill Holm Center. This symposium will feature artists and scholars from the U.S. and Canada and highlight current research in the field of Northwest Coast art history. It will focus in particular on Native American/First Nations Canadian artists whose art is rooted in deep understanding of their respective cultural and visual heritage yet is clearly contemporary in its expression. Speakers will include distinguished scholars, as well as young artists who are pushing the boundaries of their traditions.

Learn more about the Bill Holm Center via its website and Facebook page, and about the Burke Museum of Natural History & Culture.

Talking about Critical Mixed Race Studies in the Wake of Ferguson

In this guest post, Laura Kina, coeditor of War Baby / Love Child: Mixed Race Asian American Art, discusses the emerging discipline of mixed race studies and what it can contribute to ongoing dialogues surrounding race, police brutality, and social justice in the wake of Ferguson.

Since the deaths this past summer of two unarmed black men, Michael Brown Jr. in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York by white police officers, our nation has been embroiled in discussions of police brutality and racial profiling. The social unrest and racial tensions of our current moment are a stark contrast to the congratulatory “post-racial” moment in 2008 with the election of President Barack Obama–the first black “biracial” president. Recent racial tensions also present stark contrast to the celebration of the multiracial “melting pot” that America celebrated following the 2000 US Census, which allowed individuals to self-identify as more than one race for the first time.

Those earlier, problematic readings of race—as something to either get beyond or as something new and worthy of celebration—coupled with the dearth of history and representations of mixed race Asian American lives inspired my coauthor Wei Ming Dariotis and I to publish War Baby/Love Child: Mixed Race Asian American Art (University of Washington Press, 2013). Along with my DePaul colleague Camilla Fojas, we also set out to challenge these myths and establish a scholarly field of Critical Mixed Race Studies.

In November 2014, DePaul University hosted an international conference—“Global Mixed Race,” the 3rd biennial Critical Mixed Race Studies conference in Chicago. More than 600 people attended, including scholars, artists, performers, filmmakers, activists, and students from across the United States as well as Canada, United Kingdom, Japan, and Australia. The conference featured two keynote speakers from Ireland: Rebecca Chiyoko King-O’Riain, author of Pure Beauty: Judging Race in Japanese American Beauty Pageants and coeditor of Global Mixed Race; and Zélie Asava, author of Black Irish Onscreen: Representing Black and Mixed Race Identities in Irish Film and TV. Through our partnership with the nonprofit organization Mixed Roots Stories we presented live performances and film screenings across the conference. This central inclusion of the arts prioritizes the importance of storytelling, the rootedness in the texture and affect of lived experiences, the world of imagination, and visions of alternative realities.

Closing remarks at Mixed Roots Stories Live Performance at the November 2014 Critical Mixed Race Studies conference. Photo by Ken Tanabe.

Closing remarks at Mixed Roots Stories Live Performance at the November 2014 Critical Mixed Race Studies conference. Photo by Ken Tanabe.

Critical Mixed Race Studies is about recognizing the totality of one’s heritage—seeing race and systems of racism in the particular context of mixed race and talking about what this means for our lives and communities today, what it has meant historically, and what we might envision our futures to be like, and what we can do now to help in anti-racist struggles across many different communities. It reflects a turn to comparative racialization that challenges discrete categories of race and it is inherently tied to colonial and imperial histories, giving it a transnational and global focus that displaces the United States from the center of critical analysis.

The mixing of races is the result of various kinds of migration, both forced and at will, and it is the outcome of imperial expansion throughout the ages. Moreover, the idea of mixed race is not based on discrete racial categories or some cultural or ethnic similarities—e.g., food, customs, or language—or geographical location. Rather mixed race is a way of seeing that enables an examination of the comparative processes of racialization without resorting to any single defined group identity or place.

Our 2014 theme, “Global Mixed Race,” recognized this widening scope of critical mixed race studies in its comparative, transnational, and global dimensions. We are attentive to the persistence of racialized violence and the troubled history of racism in the US and the world as we explore issues of multiracial and mixed intimacies and contact along with the possibilities of global anti-racist political alliances among multiracial communities and their allies.

As the urgency of how much black lives matter fades from the headlines, it’s important for us to keep an intersectional focus on these issues. As Critical Mixed Race Studies and Mixed Roots Stories and many other multiracial community organizations collectively stated in November 2014 in support of the family of Michael Brown Jr.: “We are connected to these events and stand in solidarity with the many individuals and communities that have been harmed by the legacies of white supremacy, privilege, and racism. As community organizers, scholars, activists, writers, and artists, we remain resolute in dismantling racism through our work and actions.”

Laura Kina is an artist and Vincent de Paul professor of Art, Media, & Design at DePaul University. She is the coeditor, along with Wei Ming Dariotis, of War Baby/Love Child: Mixed Race Asian American Art. Her solo exhibition, “Blue Hawaiʻi,” is on view from January 27 through March 3, 2015 at the Harold B. Lemmerman Gallery at New Jersey City University. Visit Kina’s website for more information.

Watch Critical Mixed Race Studies and Mixed Roots Stories videos from the November 2014 conference:

Critical Mixed Race Studies keynote address: Rebecca Chiyoko King-O’Riain, “Mixed Race, Transconnectivity, and the Global Imagination”

Mixed Roots Stories keynote address : Zélie Asava, “The Black Irish Onscreen”

Mixed Roots Stories live performances

Recommended Reading

The University of Washington Press is the publisher of a number of recent and forthcoming titles that contribute to mixed race studies as well as ongoing dialogues about race, artistic expression, state violence, and black history:

Rising Tide of Color: Race, State Violence, and Radical Movements Across the Pacific
Edited by Moon-Ho Jung

Radical Theatrics: Put-Ons, Politics, and the Sixties
By Craig J. Peariso

Troubling Borders: An Anthology of Art and Literature by Southeast Asian Women in the Diaspora
Edited by Isabelle Thuy Pelaud, Lan Duong, Mariam B. Lam, and Kathy L. Nguyen

Stars for Freedom: Hollywood, Black Celebrities, and the Civil Rights Movement
By Emilie Raymond

Forthcoming Fall 2015:

Portland’s Black Panthers: Empowering Albina and Remaking a City
By Lucas N. Burke and Judson Jeffries

Black Women in Sequence: Re-inking Comics, Graphic Novels, and Anime
By Deborah Elizabeth Whaley

Ancestral Cemeteries of Kyrgyzstan: A Visual Tour

In her travels through Kyrgyzstan, photographer Margaret Morton became captivated by the haunting grandeur of the region’s remote cemeteries. Architecturally unique, Kyrgyzstan’s dramatically sited cemeteries reveal the syncretic nature of Kyrgyz religious and cultural identities. “Morton’s photographs provide evidence of how culture is a living, evolving concept,” explains Kyrgyz anthropologist Elmira Köchümkulova, who leads University of Central Asia’s Cultural Heritage and Humanities Unit and contributed the introduction to the book. “These photographs are an invaluable record of the coexistence of multiple cultures, including nomadic, Muslim and Soviet, and the construction of complex identities over time.”

Margaret’s stunning photographs of these cemeteries are collected in the new book, Cities of the Dead: The Ancestral Cemeteries of Kyrgyzstan. The Cooper Union’s Arthur A. Houghton Jr. Gallery will host an exhibition of photos from the collection (January 27 through February 28) and a public reception on Tuesday, February 3 at 6:30. She will also sign books at the UW Press (booth 1007) in the College Art Association exhibit hall on February 12 from noon to 1:00 p.m.

Here, Margaret guides us through a visual tour of the remarkable natural and human landscapes that she so deftly captures in her book.

M_Morton_kg07-6876&6878-22.25x8.75_TITLE PAGE (2)A Kyrgyz ancestral cemetery seen from a distance is astonishing. At first it seems a mirage. The ornate domes and minarets are so completely at odds with the desolate mountain landscape.

kg08-9705-M_Morton (2)Miniature cities appear unexpectedly on the edges of inaccessible cliffs or stretch along deserted roads.

kg06-2684-M_Morton (2)My first trip to Kyrgyzstan was in July 2006, with Manhattan theater director Virlana Tkacz, who had invited me to photograph sites referenced in a Kyrgyz poem that she was developing into a theater piece. As we traveled along deserted road, a magnificent miniature city suddenly came into view.
Morton 14But when we drove passed, the majestic forms compressed and flattened. I was transfixed by the illusion. Determined to photograph additional sites, I postponed my flight and extended my stay from six to ten weeks. I returned to Kyrgyzstan the two following summers to continue the project.

kg08-2268-M_Morton (2)Kyrgyz mark their graves with a variety of structures that reflect the complex nature of the peoples’ religious and cultural traditions. Islamic beliefs are evident in the mosque style.

kg06-2771-M_Morton (2)Other monuments reflect Kyrgyz nomadic traditions, such as metal frames that reference the yurt, or boz üy, in Kyrgyz, a portable hut used by Central Asian herders.

???????????????????????????In more remote regions, horns and skulls of mountain sheep and goats combine with Islamic forms.

????????????????Although Kyrgyz people rarely visit the gravesites, the cemeteries are peopled with portraits of the deceased. These enamel-on-copper images were often attached to monuments during the Soviet period.

kg07-6934-M_Morton (2)Renovating or repairing old or damaged tombs is not a Kyrgyz custom. Most people believe that the monuments should disappear back into the earth with the passage of time.

Margaret Morton
is professor of art at The Cooper Union. She is the author of four previous photography books exploring alternative built environments: Fragile Dwelling; The Tunnel: The Underground Homeless of New York City; Transitory Gardens, Uprooted Lives (with Diana Balmori); and Glass House.

Three UW Press Books Named Choice Outstanding Academic Titles

Three University of Washington Press books representing the breadth of our publishing program were named 2014 Choice Outstanding Academic titles. This prestigious list reflects the best titles reviewed by Choice in the past year and brings with it the extraordinary recognition of the academic library community. This year’s list includes 690 titles (selected out of 7,000+ books) in 54 disciplines and subsections. They were chosen for their excellence in scholarship and presentation, the significance of their contributions to their fields, and their valuable treatment of the subject matter.

Congratulations to all the UW Press authors, editors, and contributors recognized by Choice!

Troubling Borders: An Anthology of Art and Literature by Southeast Asian Women in the Diaspora
Edited by Isabelle Thuy Pelaud, Lan Duong, Mariam B. Lam, and Kathy L. Nguyen

Pairing image and text, Troubling Borders showcases creative writing and visual artworks by sixty-one women of Vietnamese, Cambodian, Lao, Thai, and Filipino ancestry. The collection features compelling storytelling that troubles the borders of categorization and reflects the multilayered experience of Southeast Asian women.

Chinookan Peoples of the Lower Columbia
Edited by Robert T. Boyd, Kenneth M. Ames, and Tony A. Johnson

Chinookan peoples have lived on the Lower Columbia River for millennia. Today they are one of the most significant Native groups in the Pacific Northwest, although the Chinook Tribe is still unrecognized by the United States government. In Chinookan Peoples of the Lower Columbia, scholars provide a deep and wide-ranging picture of the landscape, history, and culture of the Chinookan peoples.


Whales and Nations: Environmental Diplomacy on the High Seas
By Kurkpatrick Dorsey

Before commercial whaling was outlawed in the 1980s, diplomats, scientists, bureaucrats, environmentalists, and sometimes even whalers themselves had attempted to create an international regulatory framework that would allow for a sustainable whaling industry. In Whales and Nations, Kurkpatrick Dorsey tells the story of the international negotiation, scientific research, and industrial development behind these efforts – and their ultimate failure.

Fifty Years of the Immigration and Nationality Act: Guest Post by Nalini Iyer and Amy Bhatt

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (also referred to as the Hart-Cellar Act). This landmark legislation was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson and abolished country based quotas as the basis for immigration. It prioritized instead skills and family reunification, opening the doors to new waves of immigrants from Asia, Africa, and other parts of the world that had been previously restricted. In this guest post, Nalini Iyer and Amy Bhatt, authors of Roots and Reflections: South Asians in the Pacific Northwest reflect on that change and preview some of the celebrations and commemorations that will take place in the coming year.

Fifty years ago, the Immigration and Nationality Act was a major source of contention in Congress as many feared that too many foreigners would change the fabric of the American nation and create too much competition for jobs. As a way to assuage these fears, several prominent politicians of the day (including Robert Kennedy) predicted that there would be minimal impact on immigration from the Asia Pacific triangle and suggested that we might see about 5,000 immigrants from the region in the first year and not much after that.

However, the legislators of the time were way off the mark in their demographic predictions. After the bill was passed, the numbers of immigrations from South Asia rose immensely. Between 1961-1970, India only sent 31,200 immigrants to the United States and Pakistan sent 4,900, but through the 1970s, the numbers increased to 176,800 immigrants from India and 157,000 from Pakistan/Bangladesh. By the 2000s, 157,000 Pakistanis and 106,700 Bangladeshis arrived and between 2001 and 2010, 662,500 Indians acquired legal permanent resident status[1]. Without a doubt, the Immigration and Nationality Act and the waves of immigration from South Asia that followed, have transformed the racial, economic, social, and political fabric of this country. Continue reading

January 2015 News, Reviews, and Events


The University of Washington Press community was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Naomi Brenner Pascal, our longtime editor-in-chief, on December 5. Naomi’s achievements as an editor were legendary in the scholarly publishing community. A celebration of her life and work is planned for February 20. Read more about Naomi’s life and career here.


Citizen 13660 by Mine Okubo, reviewed by the International Examiner:

“This graphic memoir has a unique place in the literature for its presentation of the experience through the eyes and hands of a great artist. Get a copy and study the drawings. It will come as a revelation for the many who have never seen it.” –Chizu Omori, International Examiner, December 2014 Continue reading