Preston Singletary, whose blown and sandblasted works in glass channel his Native American heritage, brings a political edge to a new body of work to be unveiled in his upcoming exhibition, Premonitions of Water, opening April 6, 2017, at the Traver Gallery in Seattle. Singletary has explored traditional Tlingit iconography for much of his artistic career. Working with images and narratives from Native American people from Alaska and British Columbia, Singletary weaves traditional figures usually carved into wood into blown-glass works. Interviewed for an upcoming episode of Nature, airing on PBS on April 21, 2017, Singletary discussed in depth his portrayal of the Tlingit myth The Raven.
A central character in the creation myth is the Raven, a shape shifter who impregnates a fisherman's daughter. After she gives birth to a curious boy with “ravenous” eyes, the child’s curiosity gets the best of him when he meddles with forbidden boxes and unleashes the sun, moon and stars. In a panic, the people scatter. Those who dive into the river become sea life, while others take refuge in the forest and become animals. Those who stay become the Tlingit peoples. Native myths and legends like this drive the inspiration of Singletary’s work.
The new works are reminiscent of Grecian urns in their depiction of mythology using the vessel forms. Singletary, working with glass instead of clay, typically presents Tlingit stories and images in an earnest manner. In the Fall 2010 edition of GLASS (#120), contributor Victoria Josslin wrote about how Singletary has prioritized visuals over commentary: "Singletary's commitment is to skill and beauty, and to a traditional iconography he approaches with reverence without irony, " Josslin wrote.
In his upcoming exhibition at Traver Gallery, the Seattle artist brings a new sense of activism. In response to the conflict over the Dakota Access Pipeline project that endangers native burial grounds and bodies of water, Singletary blows vessels in tribute to water protectors from native cultures.
“My work continues to evolve and connect my personal cultural perspective to current modern art movements, and I have received much attention for striving to keep the work fresh and relevant,” Singletary said in his artist statement posted on Traver Gallery’s website. “I have been honored that my success has inspired other artists from underrepresented indigenous cultures to use glass and other non-traditional materials in their work, and hope that I can continue to encourage more innovation in this area as my career progresses.”
In this exhibtion, Singletary maintains smooth textures, aerodynamism, and tribal imagery reminiscient of his past show, "Journey Across the Fire (And Into the World)," but the indigenous figures he renders, specifically in "Travels on Water," are active. The movement in this piece adds a a new immediacy and complexity to the narrative beyond the images. Engaging as it does with current events is a refreshing new direction for the artist, and the work benefits from the new energy.
IF YOU GO:Preston Singletary “Premonitions of Water” April 6, 2017 - April 29, 2017 Opening preview: April 5 Traver Gallery 110 Union Street #200 Seattle, Wwashington Tel: 206.587.6501 Website