barry herem northwest coast artist
The Whale House - the essay
The Whale House interpreting a historic photograph by Barry Herem The Whale House of the Chilkat Tlingit of Klukwan, Alaska has long been the most famous and grandiose of all tribal houses in... MORE
Tlingit Whale House of Klukwan
This is the Tlingit Whale House of Klukwan, Alaska as seen in about 1895 when this photograph was taken. I include a few close ups to show the amount of detail that can be enjoyed. This is surely one of... MORE
Clear cast glass from an original in wood. Two pieces back to back with black steel stand, 10 X 8 1/2 X 3 1/2 inches, 2014. $2500. Dour to blissful, these two images are based on the haunting portrait... MOREMore selections
Welcome to my website!
That’s me above gazing into the face of an old fallen totem pole in Haida Gwai (the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia) 25 years ago. A friend, native artist Allie High, has written that this image “says it all - it’s how you look at someone you love.” It could not be better said. Indeed, I am in love with the art of the old Northwest Coast, realms of the early native people of the area, those who invented just such totems, as well as the entire design format for the work I have taken up during the last 50 years.
This photo is a fitting introduction to my career and to the works you will see here (to move on quickly, click the menu categories above)
As for this old totem, which had fallen over the beach grass and sand in front of the old Haida village site of Skedans, it is surely gone now, the victim of time and surging winter storms. In fact almost all of the old works are no longer to be found outside of many national museums that have striking collections where such and its like can still be seen due to the fact that dazzled collectors have been gathering this material for more than a century. I myself have worked in the field to preserve the material heritage of “ the coast” as I refer to it, there is more about that in my biographical notes.
In developing this site I have taken particular pleasure in using the changing banner of photographs above to show a few of the spectacular places and sights I have photographed during many years of - primarily - canoe travel to old village sites among the islands and shores of British Columbia and SE Alaska. In real ways my work comes from and is inspired by these places, something I have taken the liberty to suggest literally. In honor I have also included one or two 19th century photographs of historic native villages. It is my belief that in some way, so far mysterious, the landscape of the NW Coast has itself directly inspired the art which has now become a form taken up by both native and non-native people alike, a fact presciently suggested by native artist Joe David who has said “any people living here at the time would have created the art”.
As this website develops I will include information about the design “system” of Northwest Coast art, the museums where it can be seen, some of the most helpful publications - as well as films - and a selection of the many new ways in which this compelling art form is now developing. MORE