Mythology in Art
Carroll, Colleen, Arts & Activities
What do conjurers, shapeshifters, alchemists, transformers and tricksters all have in common besides the magical grip they hold on our collective imagination? They are present in nearly every culture's mythology, folklore and legends. And, to the Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest, there is no more clever a trickster than the raven. This month's Clip & Save Art Print features a transformation mask depicting a raven, created by Haida master artist Charles Edenshaw (1839-1920).
To the Haida, the indigenous people of British Columbia, ravens assume a place of prominence in many of their creation stories, such as "How Raven Stole the Sun," "Raven and the Man Who Sits on the Tides" and "Raven Finds the First Men."
"In northern Northwest Coast mythology, Raven is the powerful figure who transforms the world. Stories tell how Raven created the land, released the people from a cockle shell and brought them fire. Raven stole the light and brought it out to light up the world. Yet Raven is a trickster--often selfish, hungry and mischievous. He changes the world only by cleverly deceiving others in his never-ending quest for food." (www.amnh.org/exhibitions/past-exhibitions/totems-to-turquoise/cosmology/raven-the-trickster)
The raven is also a key figure in Haida art. Totem poles, masks, canoes, jewelry and other Haida art forms commonly depict the raven. In 2006, the Vancouver Art Gallery launched Raven Travelling: 200 years of Haida Art, a major exhibition that explored "how Haida art reflects the mythological realm through examples of the Raven figure as trickster, transformer and creator." To learn more about Haida culture, visit www.native-languages.org/haida-legends.htm.
ABOUT THE ARTWORK According to artsconnected.org, a transformation mask is "a large mask with movable parts that can be opened and closed." This month's Art Print is an exquisite example of such a mask, depicting the legendary trickster of Haida mythology, the raven. …