Contemporary Coast Salish art

January 22, 2014
Robin K. Wright

Today, Coast Salish artists continue to use traditional tools and techniques, but are also using computer graphics, laser cutters, power tools, silk screen and giclée prints, glass hot shops, foundries and more to bring both traditional and innovative forms to the 21st century.

Coast Salish artists have been commissioned to produce large scale public art installations that are viewable throughout the region. These include house posts and welcome figures, story poles and cast bronze sculptures. For additional examples, explore the interactive map of Coast Salish Art. 

Shaun Peterson paddle

“Thunderbird and Serpent Paddle,” Shaun Peterson, Puyallup/Tulalip, yellow cedar and acrylic paint, 2006, purchased with funds donated by Lawrence Christian, Burke Museum, cat. no. 2006-158/1.

Susan Point spirit boards

These six spirit board sculptures by Musequeam artist, Susan Point, are located near the Duwamish River. The original designs were carved in red cedar and cast in concrete. King County Arts Commission, 1992.

Marvin Oliver sculpture

Marvin Oliver (Quinault/Isleta Pueblo), created this cast bronze sculpture, “Spirit of our Youth” at 14th Ave. and E. Remington Court. King County Arts Commission, Seattle, Washington, 1996.

Susan Point tree grate

Four Coast Salish-style salmon swim around this tree grate. It is one of a series of tree grates that were designed by Susan Point for this location near Century Link Field. Commissioned by First and Goal, Inc., Seattle, WA, 1999.

Roger Fernandes

Artist and storyteller Roger Fernandes created this “Snoqual/Moon the Transformer” piece as a gateway to the Thomas Street pedestrian bridge. Commissioned by the City of Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs 2012.

Shaun Peterson welcome figure

This 2010 Welcome Figure by artist Shaun Peterson, Puyallup/Tulalip, was a collaboration between the City of Tacoma, Tacoma Art Museum and the Puyallup Tribe.

Art Inspired by Traditional Forms

Coast Salish spindle whorls housed in museum collections were studied by Susan Point, Stan Greene, Charles Elliott and other Coast Salish artists who sought to revitalize Coast Salish art in the late 20th century, a time when most Northwest Coast artists were working in more northern styles. The circular form of the whorl has continued to inspire many 21st century Coast Salish print makers.

19th century spindle whorl

Spindle Whorl 
19th century Coast Salish spindle whorl, DeMenil private collection.

Stan Greene silk screen

Greene Print 
Human with Thunderbirds, Stan Greene, Coast Salish/Semiahmoo, silk screen print, 1979, Margaret Blackman and Edwin S. Hall, Jr. collection, Burke Museum cat. no. 1998-90/317.

19th century spindle whorl

Spindle Whorl 
19th century Coast Salish spindle whorl, Canadian Museum of Civilization, cat. no. VIIG8.

Susan Point silk screen

Point Print 
Twin Thunderbirds, Susan Point, Musqueam, silk screen print, 1981, Simon Ottenberg collection, Burke Museum cat. no. 1992-48/2.

19th century spindle whorl

Spindle Whorl 
19th century spindle whorl, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, cat. no. 221179-E.

Leslie Wells silk screen

Wells Print 
Leslie Wells (Coast Salish), Untitled, 1991, silk screen print, Simon Ottenberg collection, Burke Museum #1999-151/27.

Susan Point has also experimented with several designs inspired by a wooden comb in the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.

Peabody Comb

Peabody Comb
A four-legged animal is shown with a clear profile, its tail curled up over the head and negative crescents and trigons defining the ribs. Courtesy of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, 95-20-10/48393.

Point Print "Squirrel"

Point Print "Squirrel"
“Squirrel,” Susan Point, Musqueam, silkscreen print, 1989, Simon Ottenberg Collection, Burke Museum cat. no. 1997-123/10.

Suquamish elder Ed Carriere was inspired to weave his “Mountain, Lightning and Icicle” basket after studying a Suquamish basket in the Burke Museum collection in 1992.

Suquamish Basket
Suquamish coiled basket, Burke Museum cat. no. 2.5E528.

Ed Carriere Basket
Suquamish elder Ed Carriere was inspired to weave his Mountain, Lightning and Icicle basket after studying a Suquamish basket in the Burke Museum collection in 1992. Burke Museum cat. no. 2007-5/1.

Learn More

Continue reading Coast Salish art resources or explore more Coast Salish art
Back to Top