By Andy Everson
A Limited Edition Print by Andy Everson
Of all the topics of Northwest Coast design, the human face affects many of us at the most profound level. It represents the mirroring of humanity. It illustrates a connection to ourselves, our ancestors, and our descendants yet to come.
In “Ancestral Steps,” the human faces represent layers of our past. Each step signifies an ancestral figure whose very existence has enabled us to live, to learn, and to love. Each person has passed down meaning to successive generations.
The faces are portrayed in the Chilkat style. One of the most fascinating and complex forms of art on the coast, Chilkat weavings have a special relationship with my family. The right to wear and weave these beautiful garments was passed down from my great-great-great grandmother, Mary Ebbets Hunt. Pride in these blankets was instilled in me from my grandmother, Audie Frank, who is represented by the bottom of the “Ancestral Steps.”
Finally, I conceived of “Ancestral Steps” after finishing my Master’s Degree. I envisioned the legacy of knowledge left to me from my ancestors and wished to acknowledge that mine was not a solitary effort, but part of something much bigger. I thought of all of the beautiful faces that look down on us whenever we accomplish anything to maintain the integrity of our forebears.
“Ancestral Steps” is a limited edition print using the giclée method of printmaking. Print production took place during June of 2001 at SkyDancer Studio of Comox B.C. The artist was involved throughout the printing process. A total of 45 prints bear the title “Ancestral Steps” and are signed by Andy Everson: 40 in the primary edition bearing the numbers 1/40 through 40/40; 4 Artist’s Proofs; and 1 Printer’s Proof. The acid-free 100% cotton Provence Rag paper measures 17x14¼ inches. Image size measures about 14½x11½ inches.
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Andy Everson was born in Comox, BC in 1972 and named Na̱gedzi after his grandfather, the late Chief Andy Frank of the K’ómoks First Nation. Andy has also had the honour of being seated with the ‘Na̱mg̱is T̓sit̓sa̱ł'walag̱a̱me' name of Ḵ̓wa̱mxa̱laga̱lis I'nis. Influenced heavily by his grandmother, he has always been driven to uphold the traditions of both the K’ómoks and Kwakwa̱ka̱'wakw First Nations. In this regard, Andy has pursued avenues where he can sing traditional songs and perform ceremonial dances at potlatches and in a number of different dance groups, most notably the Le-La-La Dancers, the Gwa'wina Dancers and the K’umugwe Dancers.
Pursuing other areas of traditional culture has also led Andy to complete a Master’s degree in anthropology. Because the K’ómoks First Nation lies on the border between the larger Salish and Kwakwa̱ka̱'wakw realms, his thesis focused on notions and expressions of contemporary Comox identity. His work in anthropology provided him with a background in linguistics which subsequently inspired him to create a company, Copper Canoe, Inc, that specialized in the creation of Aboriginal language media.
Andy feels that his artwork stands on par with these other accomplishments. Although he began drawing Northwest Coast art at an early age, Andy's first serious attempt wasn’t until 1990 when he started designing and painting chilkat-style blankets for use in potlatch dancing. From these early self-taught lessons, he has tried to follow in the footsteps of his Kwakwa̱ka̱'wakw relatives in creating bold and unique representations that remain rooted in the age-old traditions of his ancestors. The ability to create and print most of his own work has allowed Andy to explore and express his ancestral artwork in a number of contemporary ways.