Raven’s Magic Box: Order From Chaos with Jerrod Galanin


2020 will be remembered for many different reasons. Some will remember all of the challenges, chaos, and disruptions that the pandemic brought about and sum up that year as their proverbial Pandora’s box half empty. However, others found inspiration in that time perhaps more as a Raven’s Magic Box filled with hope, possibilities, and endless combinations with which to solve life’s puzzles. Tlingit artist, Jerrod Galanin, found himself, with time to focus not only on his copper engraving, but also time to explore new ways of creating. Stonington Gallery is honored to be featuring the works created by Jerrod Galanin during 2020.Tradition says that Raven, aka the Trickster, released the moon, the sun, and the stars into the universe. Light was released for all. This magic box features two hand engraved ravens around the sides of this copper bentwood box with a yellow cedar base and lid. Inside the fur-lined box is a copper, hand engraved, working Rubik’s Cube puzzle. This box that raven tricked people with contains a puzzle that finds order from chaos. With over 3 billion possible combinations, place it in this box and it returns to its one solution: order. Open the lid and it automatically returns to the combination that you left it in.

Raven, the Trickster figure who is the catalyst for many creation stories in Northwest Coast myths, found himself working up some magic in Jerrod Galanin’s studio this past summer. Depicted on the sides of a clever copper bent box, Raven raises the question: Can you find order in chaos? The answer is nestled in the box’s fur-lined interior: a copper, hand engraved, working Rubik’s Cube puzzle. “The Box That Raven Tricked People With” contains a puzzle that creates order from chaos. With over 3 million possible combinations, place the cube in this box and it returns to its one solution: order. Open the lid and it automatically returns to the combination that you left it in. Within us there can be order, even when there is chaos without.

Like many of us in lockdown, Jerrod felt the chaos of the circumstances he was in–the stress, anxiety, and fatigue—all of the emotions that were building up over the course of the many months isolated from the rest of the world. In this moment, though, Jerrod found a new voice as an artist, a different medium through which to express himself, one that afforded a freedom not as readily felt when engraving metal. Being in Sitka, living an island life, and not having the luxury of readily available archival paper, Jerrod found some sheets of brown paper, some pastels, colored pencils, markers, graphite and charcoal and began to put images to paper. He channeled all of his energy—intense and otherwise—into bright, fluid, gestural drawings. He found his order in the chaos.

The experience was cathartic and emotional. And in the few pieces on paper that he created, Jerrod discovered an expressionistic approach to formline art as of yet untapped in his own work. It expanded across the paper in bright swaths of color, textural, undulating curves, soft flexible formlines, ebbing and flowing and pushing right to the edges of his scissor-cut brown paper. These sketches are bursts of his own feelings, rooted in a centuries-long history of Tlingit artists creating formline art. With these pieces, he reveled in the flexibility of not measuring to achieve perfect ovoids, instead he let them flow out of him, filling them with color, following them as they meandered on their way, focused more on an expressionistic process than a methodical one.

By the fall of 2020, Jerrod continued this interest in 2D works on paper, and took to the computer to create a series of variable limited edition giclée prints in a variety of traditional and non-traditional colors. Like Raven in one of the images, Jerrod encourages us to slow down and savor and appreciate the simple, natural gifts that already exist in this world.

Not that he will stop being an engraver and jeweler any time soon. Jerrod found order in the chaos of 2020 and we are grateful to present his new body of work. For in these months of isolation and personal reflection, he stepped away from the microscope and the magnifying glass to let a new, more fluid process take over. In a sense, he put the puzzle or the challenges of 2020 in a box which gave him order and the freedom to unleash his other talents.

Exhibition Dates:

March 30, 2021 - April 30, 2021

Involved Artists:

Jerrod Galanin (Tlingit/Unangan)