RTCFA No. NA0200
Artist: David Boxley Birth: 1952
Wood, paint, 35 x 1 x 6.12 in. (88.9 x 2.5 x 15.5 cm).
Geographic Location: Metlakatla, Alaska
Region: Northwest Coast
Group / Tribe: Tsimshian
/*Carved canes became special presentation items among Northwest Coast carvers after the advent of the white man but were also carved for trading purposes. The latter is the case with Boxley’s beautifully carved cane. The program is highly original since it features totemic animals coupled with their human counterparts. The handle is an eagle and eagle person followed by 2) halibut and halibut person, 3) salmon and salmon woman, 4), wolf and wolf’s personification, and 5) raven and raven person. In 1970, if I recall this correctly, I was on my third excursion up the Northwest Coast on an Alaskan State Ferry; I got off the boat at Sitka, Juno, and Ketchikan on my way down the inland waterway of the Alaskan panhandle. It was a marvelous trip during which time was not important because you could always catch another of these ferryboat taxis. Since that time there is such an increase in travel on the part of excursionist not only from America, but also Europe and gods knows where else that you can hardly book a passage unless it is done well in advance. My travel partner on this trip was the young art critic for the Kansas City Star, the only curious and talented and well educated art critic that the Kansas City Star employed during my long tenure at the Nelson Gallery. He was willing to “go with the flow” which was definitely my style of traveling, this was the only way to ensure that you could really experience the catch-as- catch-can opportunities for Northwest Coast Indian cultural adventures which you had to adapt while the Indians did not need to adapt to you. Finally, the ferry on its return stopped off in Ketchikan. I was able to get a hold of Dolores Churchill, the gifted daughter of Selena Peratrovich, a Haida doyen of basketry and Haida culture in all its aspects. I was able to engage Selena as a demonstrator at the American showing of the Sacred Circles, accompanying her was her daughter Dolores who has since succeeded her mother in prominence as an basketry artist and cultural caretaker of the Haida people. I am lucky enough to possess several works by both mother and daughter. I got in touch with Delores by hailing a cab in Ketchikan and getting the driver to call her since she was a taxi dispatcher. So I was able to renew my connection with her. It was Delores who told me to look up a curio shop in downtown Ketchikan, I can not remember the name of it; what I do remember is seeing through the window a walking stick that immediately attracted my attention. I entered, bought it for approximately $450, which was quite a chunk out of my allotted travel budget. It was worth it! What made me buy this piece? The answer is plain and up front, the progression of imagery is absolutely classic Tsimshian style and I wondered who could have learned it so aptly. This is particularly true of the facial imagery the faces are very similar in style to each other and have the high cheekbones and wide plain foreheads that signal the traditional rendering of features on classic Tsimshian poles. It is basically an adaptation of a miniature pole rethought in terms of a delicate reduction of a prestige walking stick. Though of wood, it has a refinement of scale and a delicate rhythmic lines associated with an elegance that is truly Tsimshian in style. Rather than volumetric in style as we see in Haida carvings, this piece had a compact alignment of detail that yelled at me right through the window. Little wonder that in David Boxley’s subsequent proficient career has achieved a delicate poetic style all his own and versatility in carving, song and dance as well as a prominent educator, ceremonialist, and a multi-tasking culturist whose influence goes far beyond the ordinary commitments of being a technician.*/ —Ralph T. Coe