Orca Solstice with Moon
EXHIBITION:Barry Herem: Spotlight
This is the portrayal of a killer whale in classic Northwest Coast formline style. It is based on the image of a 19th century ivory Tlingit shaman’s charm. Even I who have been working with form line art for 40 years find it extraordinary. Not because I have enlarged and painted a version of it, but only because such a frontal way of presenting a three-dimensional creature is so amazingly inventive to me. Alone, I could never have created such a shape, I am merely the student of a design system that has provided all of us who work with form line art a wonderful graphic way of “seeing”.
The fin of this Orca rises directly up in a dark blue-black through the center of this image. It is especially denoted by its circular blow-hole in which a human face is found. It and this figure’s small hands below represent the human being and human form which so often lie beneath the surface of many animistic designs in this style. The Orca is a human being transformed and in the mythology of “the coast” killer whales lives beneath the sea as people existing in villages and houses not unlike people on land. Below is found the wide face and sensuous mouth of the killer whale, and at the top of the image his flaring tail sweeps out from the intersecting dorsal fin to the margins of the design. At the sides the killer whale’s pectoral fins connect the large eyes below to the fin. The flowing S-curves over the fields of blue-green represent the rib-cage.
I have taken particular pleasure in adding ample slabs of real abalone to this design, both as the teeth of the killer whale and as ornamental details to the fin and tail. If this were a carved work such inlay would be characteristic of an especially ornate image. The wide blue-black margins are reminiscent of the graphic bands of solid color which enclose the central image in a traditional button blanket. This image may soon be slightly reduced in the form of a giclee print.
By Barry Herem