Thomas Stream

Thomas Stream

Tribal Enrollment Number: BIA: ANCSA Enrollment #13-741-35895-01

Aleut artist Thomas Stream was born in Kodiak, AK in 1941. During the war, his family moved to Washington State, settling in Seattle in 1945. After graduating in 1960, he volunteered for the draft and entered the Military, serving as a combat engineer. He re-enlisted in 1962 and served in Korea, being honorably discharged in 1965. After the military, he worked in the food processing business. In 1971, he attended Seattle Central Community College and studied graphic arts and illustration. Graduating in 1974 with a degree in advertising arts, he then entered Cornish School of Allied Arts in Seattle and studied fine arts; graduating in 1976.

Thomas Stream’s paintings pay homage to his Aleut ancestors and their traditions.  He began the Aleutian Painting series in 1996, an exploration of natural forms, vivid colors and delicate patterns. This series is encapsulated by the phrase, “We are still here,” a simple—yet poignant and powerful—statement that sums up Stream’s outlook on his heritage and his artwork. The Aleutian Islands are an archipelago of islands which extend deeply into the North Pacific. To their north lies the Bering Sea.  The land is made up of primarily rock and sand with little vegetation. The Aleut have lived on Alaska’s Aleutian Islands for thousands of years.

The vivacious animals in Stream’s paintings wear traditional Aleutian hunting hats. These represent nobility and status within Aleut society. The visors have been made out of steam-bent driftwood for millennia. The hats were seamed up the back with gut and adorned with carved ivory, sea lion whiskers, bird feathers and Russian trade beads. Older hats from the 18th and nineteenth century are some of the rarest artifacts from the pre-contact period. The Aleuts spent a large part of their time at sea in kayaks, and the shape of the visor echoes the Aleutian kayaks. They served both to shade the hunter’s face in his kayak and to spiritually connect the hunter to his prey. In Stream’s iconography these visors celebrate the individual spirit of each animal, while connecting them to the Aleut people, who share the same environment.

Stream also uses color and line to represent his love and respect for his heritage. Stream’s paintings make use of geometric designs and pointillist dots. At first glance, these dots and lines simply add depth to a jay’s wing or an orca’s tail. However, these spiraling forms are cultural techniques to visualize time and space—the addition of which lend a longevity and immortality to their subjects.

“The images illustrate humility and honor to a unique group of people. I utilize the creatures of the sky, sea, and earth to depict the wonderful wittiness, strength, playfulness, sensitivity, power and sorrow of the Aleuts and their environment.” —Thomas Stream

Original Gouache vs Limited Edition Gouache vs Limited Edition Giclée

Original Gouache Painting: A single, unique, hand-painted gouache painting on paper that will never be re-painted. However, limited edition prints are often available, particularly after the original has sold.

Limited Edition Gouache Painting: For many years it was virtually impossible to accurately reproduce Stream’s works in a cost-effective way with traditional print-making methods. Stream wished to be able to offer print versions of his work, but the layers of dots, extremely thin lines, and multiple colors made serigraphy a challenge. So, Stream offered limited edition originals: he would paint a limited number of the same gouache paintings by hand. The number was often low (5, 10, or 20) and once he had re-painted the number that were in the edition, the edition would close forever. Limited Edition Originals marked “contact to special order” or with a price on our website are still available to be ordered, and Stream will hand-paint the next one in the edition. Please note that due to fluctuations in colors of paint that are available from year to year, colors may vary slightly.

Limited Edition Giclée Prints: With the advent of giclée printing in the 1990s, it finally became possible to offer Stream’s works in a cost-effective and extremely high fidelity version. Stream has largely ceased creating new Limited Edition Originals (though he will still fulfill orders of older editions), and now creates Original Gouache paintings (one-of-a-kind) and Limited Edition Giclées. Giclée print editions are high quality reproductions of original paintings, and capture the bright colors and even the brushstrokes of the originals. They are each hand-signed and numbered.