Art Thompson Seafood Series November 01, 2015 17:16

In 1977, Nuu-chah-nulth artist Art Thompson created a series of prints based on sea creatures that both solidified his status as one of the top Indigenous artists in Canada and ushered in an era of modern Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootka) design. Colloquially referred to as The Seafood Series, these five prints depicted sea creatures in a playful and unconventional manner. While they display the angularity and forms (such as the star, s-shape, and ovoid) found within traditional Nuu-chah-nulth artwork, they are asymmetrical and animated. 

Many of the prints that Art created in his short life were based on historical Nuu-chah-nulth formline design and subject matter, but The Seafood Series demonstrated his ability to produce something that was new and experimental while still being recognizably West Coast. Comprised of the Mussel, the Barnacle, the Clam, the Halibut, and the Cod Fish, this series represents the Coastal peoples' reverence for sea creatures and the sustenance they provide.  

Art Thompson was largely a self-taught artist, but he did study with Nuu-chah-nulth artists Ron Hamilton and Joe David. From 1978 to 1981, he carved with Duane Pasco. Art studied commercial art at Camosun College in Victoria, BC, as well as at the Vancouver School of Art. He was greatly influenced by artists at the Gitanmaax School of Northwest Coast Indian Art at 'Ksan in Hazelton, BC. Art produced many works including silkscreen prints, masks, totem poles, jewellery, bentwood boxes, and ceremonial puppets. His media included silver and gold, wood, deer hide, acrylic paint, and pastels. Sea creatures were one of his favourite subjects, and many of his print images were drawn from drum heads. The design Our Beginnings was created as the logo for the 1997 North American Indigenous Games. He is considered to be one of the great Nuu-chah-nulth artists of the 20th century. Art passed away in 2003.