Killer Whale by David A. Boxley, Tsimshian Nation
Killer Whale, David A. Boxley, Tsimshian Nation, silkscreen, 14" high x 11" wide
David A. Boxley is Eagle Clan of the Alaskan Tsimshian from Metlakatla, Alaska. Born January 19, 1952, he was raised by his grandparents. From them, he learned many Tsimshian traditions including the language. His grandfather was a canoe carver. After high school he attended Seattle Pacific University where he received a bachelor of science degree in 1974. He became a teacher and basketball coach to Junior and Senior high students in Alaska and Washington.
While teaching in Metlakatla in 1979, he began devoting considerable time to the study of traditional Tsimshian carving. Through researching ethnographic material and carvings housed in museum collections, Boxley learned the traditional carving methods of his grandfathers’ people. In 1986 he made a major career decision to leave the security of teaching and to devote all of his energies toward carving and researching the legacy of Northwest Coast Indian art. By using these skills, David Boxley has become a nationally recognized artist holding one-man shows in Washington D.C. and throughout the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, Hawaii and Europe.
For the Goodwill Games in 1990, Boxley was commissioned to carve the crown of a “Talking Stick”. The carving represented a unified American eagle and a Russian bear. It became a symbol of peace and harmony between the United States and Soviet Union and was an important part of that summer’s Goodwill Games.
David Boxley is the first Alaskan Tsimshian carver to achieve national prominence; He is particularly well respected as a totem pole carver, having carved 46 poles in the last 25 years. Boxley’s functional and decorative pieces are in collections around the word and owned by distinguished people, including: the King and Queen of Sweden, the Emperor of Japan, the President of West Germany, and the Mayor of Chongging, China.
David Boxley has taught and demonstrated at the following museums and institutes:
Burke Museum; University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
Glasgow Arts Center; Glasgow, Scotland
Heard Museum; Phoenix, Arizona
Smithsonian Institute; Washington, D.C.
Totem Heritage Center; Ketchikan, Alaska
Washington Museum of Natural History; Washington, D.C.
Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, ; Washington, D.C.
David has been deeply involved in the rebirth of Tsimshian culture through the Potlatch. In 1982, he held a Potlatch in Metlakatla. During that event he raised a totem pole to honor his grandparents. This pole was the first totem pole ever to be raised in Metlakatla. Soon after that, he started to compose new songs and dances of the newly created 4th. Generation Dance group in Metlakatla.
During Metlakatla’s 100th anniversary Potlatch, David helped with organizing, carving masks and creating song and dance. It was the largest event of its kind held in modern times with three totem poles raised, dancing, gift giving and feasts that fed a 1,000 people each evening. As well, this Potlatch gave the four clans in Metlakatla the opportunity to enact traditional commemorations.
In 2011, the Smithsonian’s Museum of the American Indian commissioned a totem pole that now permanently stands in the foyer of the Museum. The pole will be dedicated and raised in January 2012. David considers this Totem Pole for the Smithsonian his most important commission professionally but the totem pole he carved for his grandfather is by far the most important and meaningful personally.
In all of David Boxley’s works of art, from totem poles to prints, he emphasizes Tsimshian style. In the recent resurgence of Native American cultural traditions, artists have become the culture bearers for their tribes. Boxley accepts this responsibility not only by his carving accomplishments but by bringing his home village the traditions he has learned in his path to being a carver.