Of art, humor and tradition
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Although he’s 27 years old, Lummi Nation artist Phillip Solomon says life-changing events that began at about age 17 kept him from seriously pursuing art until a couple years ago. Since then, he’s been doing all he can to play catch-up, including painting on everything from canvases to shoes. When his new exhibit, “Salish Stories,” opens this weekend, Solomon will be on hand to share his work.
Cascadia Weekly: When did you first become interested in making art?
Phillip Solomon: I first started drawing when I was a kid, in school and at home. I spent a number of years in foster homes, practicing with a pencil and notebook paper that the tribe gave to us for free. When I was 15, I moved to Tulalip with my mom. I started to get in a lot of trouble, and my art was on hold for 10 years—until I moved back to Lummi. It seemed like when I came home, my gift and passion for art were renewed.
CW: Did you get encouragement along the way?
PS: Various members of our tribe saw my art, critiqued it and gave me encouragement and inspiration to continue on pursuing a career in it. My immediate family has always nudged me to do art professionally. I think the renewal I experienced drew me closer to my culture and creative side and helped me seriously decide to make art for a living.
CW: You fuse the traditional and contemporary in your art. Is this a conscious decision?
PS: Many artists pull from multiple Northwest traditions, but I decided it was important for me to focus on Salish designs because that is what is traditional at Lummi. I find fusing traditional Salish images with contemporary humor comes from a culmination of everything I have learned about art. I love humor and to laugh. Native people have great senses of humor, and I really enjoy capturing that in my art.
CW: Why is it important to keep traditional designs in the mix as part of your artistic process?
PS: The metaphors and lessons found in Coast Salish art are universal. People are all the same deep down, and the stories are a wonderful way to teach everyone—not just Native people. Having to seek out information about my culture on my own turned me into a historian and teacher. It’s important to me that anyone who sees my artwork recognizes it as Coast Salish.
CW: When did you start painting on shoes?
PS: After I won two art contests in 2011, I decided to paint a pair of shoes for myself. People started to take notice, and right away the orders started coming in. At the time, I was still attending college and became super-busy filling orders. Since then, I have learned to paint on high heels and boots, as well as hand drums, canvases, fitted hats, cedar hats and sunglasses.
CW: What can people expect at the art opening?
PS: The opening will feature a variety of my canvas paintings, a selection of painted shoes as well as some signed prints. The fashion show will consist of clothing hand-appliquéd with Coast Salish designs by Coast Salish Creations’ owner SiLowLeetSa (aka Doralee Sanchez).
CW: What do you hope to accomplish with your art in the future?
PS: It is critical that I continue doing what I am already doing—teaching through art—and inspiring others to find their passion. Of course, I want to continue to make people laugh and help heal and uplift the community.
CW: What are you hoping people come away with after viewing your work?
PS: When people leave my show, I want them to walk away with a smile on their face, laughter in their hearts and a true appreciation for indigenous arts and the stories of the Coast Salish people.
Worlds of wonder at Whatcom Museum
Thanks to a recent viewing of the exhibit “Spineless: Portraits of Marine Invertebrates,” I’m now convinced that an underwater denizen dubbed the “stubby squid” (Rossia pacifica) is my new spirit animal.
Like the dozens of other up-close-and-personal photographs taken by marine biologist…
David Kane’s tall tales
“Where does one go after reaching the pinnacle of artistic achievement—a solo retrospective at the Frye Museum?” asks the promo flyer for David C. Kane’s exhibit of his paintings at i.e. gallery in Edison.
Kane, a lifelong teacher of art, is a master of technique. His touch is light,…
River Gallery’s seasonal visions
Twice a year, Sylvia Strong pulls together some of the best painting, sculpture, glass and jewelry from the Skagit region to show in her gallery, a well-lit former greenhouse. It affords plenty of space to display a selection of small, affordable pieces by 38 invited artists.