On the Hunt – Skateboard and Paddle Triptych
EXHIBITION:Fast Forward: Skateboards & Paddles
These two longboards and paddle form a triptych that represents the character of Thunderbird and the Lightning Serpents (or Snakes) that accompany him.
Paddle measures 69″l x 9″w x 1.5″d
Longboards each measure 39″l x 9″w
Thunderbird is the illustrious ancestor of many prominent human lineages and a proud, powerful and noble being in myths throughout the Northwest Coast. Thunderbird is a giant, supernatural bird, named for his habit of causing thunder
and lighting. Beneath his wings he carries Lightning Snakes, which are his weapons. Thunder rolls from the flap of his wings, and lightning flashes when he blinks his great eyes or throws the Lightning Snakes. He is large and strong enough to hunt Killer Whale, which he strikes dead with the wolf-headed, serpent-tongued Lightning Snakes. Thunderbird carries his prey high into the
mountains to feed. From his home in these great heights, Thunderbird rules majestically, keeping a close watch over his dominion. Thunderbird is intelligent and proud, and humans who attempt to outwit Thunderbird are certain to have their intentions backfire.
In Nuu-chah-nulth stories, Thunderbird is a giant mountain-dwelling man who dons a bird-like costume when he ventures out to hunt whales. His Lightning Snakes are feathered serpents; people refer to them as Thunderbird’s dogs, and their heads are portrayed as dogs or wolves.
Some Coast Salish myths say that Thunderbird’s favorite perch is Black Tusk, a monolithic peak in southern British Columbia. The Quileute people of Washington state, on the other hand, identify the Blue Glacier of Mount Olympus as Thunderbird’s favorite haunt and primary residence. Thunderbird is very important to the Kwakwaka’wakw, who in legendary times made a deal with the powerful bird: in exchange for Thunderbird’s aid during a crisis, the Kwakwaka’wakw agreed to honor him for all time by making his image prominent in their art. Thus, a number of their totem poles feature Thunderbird perched at the top with his great wings outstretched.
Thunderbird exhibits a powerful hooked beak; prominent, often curly, ears (otherwise known as horns or head appendages, and always symbolic of supernatural power); large legs and talons; and large, outstretched wings.
Artists frequently give Thunderbird a beak that is longer than that of Eagle. Thunderbird is often depicted with Killer Whale, who may appear captured in his talons. Pairs of Lightning Snakes may accompany the Nuu-chah-nulth Thunderbird; often these harpoon-like, long-tongued serpents are located underneath the outstretched wings of the great bird.