Published by The Edmonds Beacon, on July 28th. Written by Maria Montalvo.
Cascadia Art Museum’s “Native American Modern” exhibition opened on Tuesday, July 25, to a large and enthusiastic opening night crowd. The color and creativity of the exhibit created excitement as each person entered the room.
“Native American Modern” demonstrates how the indigenous art of the Pacific Northwest influenced the artists who migrated here from across the United States or around the world.
It is the first exhibition to feature the art of Julius “Land Elk” Twohy (Uinta Ute, 1902-1986) and several of his local contemporaries. Twohy, who moved to Seattle in the early 1930s was one of the region’s earlier modernists and was best known for his paintings and prints during the 1930s and ’40s.
Twohy was an artist for the Washington Art Project, Federal Art Project, Works Progress Administration (WPA) and is featured in the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.
The first gallery space is dedicated to Twohy, and his stunning lithographs and blockprints capture attention for their unique perspective and methods.
Traditional dances (“Squaw Dance” and “Round
Dance”) are presented from above, with an intriguing circle of figures and movement.
Movement is one of Twohy’s artistic super-powers, as black-and-white can somehow become a kaleidoscope of colors and a flurry of transformation.
His horses, as presented in “Blessed Pony” and “Illuminated,” are magical, seemingly on a journey.
Twohy and a younger contemporary, Delbert J. McBride (Cowlitz/Quinault, 1920-1998), produced art and objects utilizing modern and abstract designs inspired by their Native American heritage.
As a painter, McBride exhibited in local museums and institutions such as the Seattle Art Museum, Tacoma Art Museum, and the University of Puget Sound.
His paintings, several “Untitled,” will have you questioning what color the features of our daily world actually are (or should be) and are quite graphic and striking.
McBride also founded a design studio, Klee Wyk Studios, that produced architectural and decorative tile murals as well as utilitarian objects that were among the finest midcentury designs.
The exhibition features a number of the studio pieces where Northwest Native American motifs reflects McBride’s Quinault and Cowlitz heritage.
The tiles, bowls, and other design pieces are just beautiful.
This exhibition also features two remarkable non-native artists who worked with Twohy and McBride, including Worth D. Griffin (1893-1981), R. Bruce Inverarity (1909-1999) and others who were highly influenced by their and other Northwest indigenous design aesthetics and culture.
When creating for the WPA, Inverarity created stunning formline wall hangings and rugs. This style of Northwest Native American art uses continuous lines and characteristic shapes to create primarily abstract compositions, and walking into the second gallery at Cascadia, the incredible examples of this create quite an impression.
Artists and craftspeople brought together by the WPA and Seattle Public Works of Art Project (WPAP) went on to find artistic success, like Guy Anderson (whose work is featured by the front entrance to the exhibit) and Morris Graves, who were among the founders of the art movement later named the Northwest School and have been featured regularly at Cascadia.
To see more of Twohy’s art, go to Seattle to see murals painted as part of a smaller program, the Treasury Relief Art Project (TRAP), to beautify federal buildings, including prisons.
Seven of the 10 mural panels at the Seattle Marine Hospital (now Pacific Tower) are still in place, and the remainder were donated to the Museum of History and Industry.
The show runs through Oct. 29 and presents a variety of shared expressions in Northwest art in the 1930s and 1940s.
Concurrent exhibits include “Urban Scenes of Seattle: 1910-1960 (through January 2024) and “Mid-Century Figurative Sculpture” (through October 2023).
Cascadia Art Museum is a unique and celebrated museum, bringing the rich tradition of Northwest visual arts and design from 1860-1970 to residents and visitors alike. Visit and enjoy this remarkable collection in a truly accessible and welcoming space.
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