Grantee: Nathan P. Jackson
Native Citizenship: Tlingit
Location: Ketchikan, Alaska
Award: 2020 Mentor Artist Fellowship
Discipline: Traditional Arts
Nathan P. Jackson has been practicing art for almost sixty years and is recognized for his traditional woodcarvings, metalwork, and sculptures. He is a prolific artist who has received many commissions and created over fifty totem poles, some of which can be found in museums in North America, Asia, and Europe. The majority of Jackson’s work is created from wood of various kinds: red cedar, yellow cedar, alder, and maple. His process starts with selecting the wood, preparing it, and using traditional tools to carve it. While taking advantage of technical advances like the chainsaw for roughing out the forms, all of the final work is completed with hand tools.
Jackson has spent significant time studying ancient Northwest Coast art in museum collections, analyzing the complex and intricate elements of the artform and working to comprehend the stylistic “rules.” For him, it is crucial for an artist to understand the art in its traditional form and to carry on this knowledge, so that it does not get lost. As such, Jackson has worked to pass on traditional Tlingit carving skills to younger artists, offering many demonstrations and workshops in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. Nowadays, many of the younger artists are experimenting with and bending the “rules.” Jackson, however, prefers to stay within the “rules.”
During the 2020 Mentor Artist Fellowship, Jackson will guide his apprentice, X̱’unei Lance Twitchell (Tlingit, Haida, Yup’ik, Sami), through a series of lessons and the creation of several artworks in preparation for producing a monumental work of art or exhibiting their work in an exhibition in Ketchikan or Juneau, Alaska. Their focus will be on creating works that deepen Twitchell’s understanding of artistic techniques in the creation and transfer of formline designs, shallow relief carving, three-dimensional carving, and engraving in metals. In addition, Jackson will work to deepen Twitchell’s knowledge of Tlingit clans, songs, dances, and life as a full-time traditional artist.
I am 81 years old, and am looking forward to making sure the future of our art and culture are in the hands of capable and productive artists who will keep perfecting their craft.
– Nathan P. Jackson