As odd as it may sound, I seldom explore dreams as inspiration. However, I do make exceptions, as anyone would, when something significant strikes me. From time to time I revisit writings of Puget Sound Salish mythology, and in a recent collaboration with First Nations writer Andrea Grant, I found myself immersed in writings and the process of re-imagining them. Our project examined the primary themes of stories through a modern lens. One thing that I feel has been unique in my work over the years is that I find myself looking at a character almost as an actor would, studying their motivations, back story and challenges. For this print, I have returned to a familiar story with a new perspective.
The moon is a recurring subject in my work, as it’s a vital component of Coast Salish mythology in my region. Moon is a half-human and half-star being that transformed many things over his time on earth, but he found he had to return to the sky world and needed a partner to join him. Many women came forward to be with him, and many felt it was for status. One thing Moon said was most important was the ability to hold the stories of the ancestors in a basket; the one who could uphold that would go with him. Lifting this basket was seen as an impossible task, even though many of the women who came forward were strong, attractive and determined. When Frog Woman came forward she was gawked at, and ridiculed for her appearance and small stature. Even so, she came forward, and she lifted this basket of stories. As a result, she is keeper of the stories in the sky world with Moon (Changer/Transformer).
This depiction explores the symbolism of her decision to see her challenge as one that would be achievable. Symbolically the double headed serpent is protector of a house, but it is also a coming-of-age passage in life where we face our fears. In particular, there is an island where one would go to face this fear alone where the serpent would reveal itself. In my mind, Frog Woman was no different than anyone else who had to undergo this life event, and this imagery is the way I imagine the trial. I think of the salmon heads in the dark water as helping her to part the waters with force and strength allowing her to seize her fears literally, and take control. It is this moment that makes me think of her strength that leads to her becoming the keeper of stories later in life. The title “Tib(i)” in Lushootseed means “to do something of great physical effort: to be strong”.