Made by Da.a xiigang/Charles Edenshaw (ca. 1839–1924), Haida
Colored pencil on AMNH stationery
Collected by Franz Boas in 1897
Boas Collection, Box 2, Folder 26, American Museum of
Natural History Anthropology Archive

During the Jesup Expedition, Franz Boas commissioned drawings to catalogue the formal characteristics of different crest animals and mythological beings for use in his early articles and exhibitions. Here Charles Edenshaw depicted Wasgo, the mythical Haida sea wolf, conventionally pictured with a wolf’s body, a dorsal fin (or two), and accompanying killer whales, which are its prey. This drawing was executed on AMNH stationery using wax crayons—likely provided by Boas—rather than paint or carved wood. With these new media, Edenshaw experimented with Wasgo’s depiction, applying unconventional color schemes and Western perspectival cues (such as the superimposition of figures and the atmospheric distortion of Wasgo’s distal ear). He refrained from using forms of symbolic ambiguity and abstraction typical of Native art to create a more easily recognizable image. Within the framework of salvage ethnography, however, museum collections from this period became indicators of “classic” Northwest Coast form regardless of their frequently intercultural contexts of production and innovation.

Cover of Franz Boas’s Primitive Art (Dover Edition, 1955; first published 1927). Note how the original colors have been changed to appear more conventional for Northwest Coast art.

Click here for a discussion about this object (Lyle Wilson)

Click here for a discussion about this object (Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas)

Tags for Interactive Tag Cloud: English text, models, repurposing, transformation