Only in the latter half of this century, the Art of North America's Northwest Coast Native people has risen to its well-deserved place of prominence in the Museums, Art Galleries, and private collections of the world. Original works such as Masks , Totem Poles , Bentwood Boxes , Limited Edition Prints , and with its distinct representation of animals, humans, and mythological beings depicted in bold, stylized realism or interpreted in the abstract.
This art form has evolved through many changes in a relatively short time, particularly in the field of wood sculpture (e.g. Masks ), and printmaking. We have seen new and innovative variations in both form and color in the relatively recent past. Through this process of renewal and re-discovery, Northwest Coast Artists have found their own cultural distinctions, which have underscored regional differences, but also have provided opportunities to participate in the styles of their neighbouring peoples.
Native Art of the Pacific Northwest Coast only started to receive wide recognition and appreciation in the late 1960's. Founded on the cultural background of their ancestors there is a slim but unbroken chain of Artists and cultural practitioners. The Native people of the Northwest Coast are usually considered six distinct peoples. The Tlingit , the Haida , the Tsimshian , the Kwakiutl , the Nuu-chah-nulth , and the Coast Salish . Each retains rich cultural and Artistic traditions. The specific geographical area that the people of the Northwest Coast inhabit is the long narrow strip of shoreline that stretches from Puget Sound up to the Alaska panhandle. The dark green conifers of the temperate rainforest heavily forest this area. The closeness these people share with the land is a major part of their cultural identity and how they view themselves. The resource-rich environment of the Northwest Coast , with its abundance of food and wood made it possible for the peoples, in the past, to devote time to their elaborate social and ceremonial life during the winter months.
The key elements of First Nations art are line, color, and form. The lines used are bold and strong and not jagged. Through the use of smooth and curving lines, clear boundaries and shapes are created. In addition, form line changes constantly, in both thickness and direction. Bold contrasting colors are used in Native art , which allows the areas of color to be obvious and clear. The basic components in NWC art: ovoid, inner ovoid, U-form, split U-form, and the S-form. The combination of these forms, combined with anatomical features, is used to form various animals such as killer whales, sea lions, and eagles.