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Box of Treasures: Shades of Grey (Phase IV)
For thousands of years, the people of the Northwest Coast stored their belongings in bentwood boxes. Meant to safeguard their inner contents, the main body of these boxes was made from a single plank of cedar wood. It was incised with kerfs and then steamed and bent to form the four sides of the vessel. By adding a tight fitting bottom, the box could easily be made watertight. Through the submersion of red-hot rocks, water could even be brought to a boil and used as a cooking vessel.
While many boxes were used for such utilitarian means of storing goods or for cooking food, the most prized boxes were decorated with intricate paintings and carved details. These were reserved for the storage of a house’s most prized possessions. These often included spectacular weavings, masterful carvings and precious heirlooms. In most cases, these fell under the purview of the chiefs in the village. This type of box came to be known as his “box of treasures.” Eventually, the term also came to be applied in a metaphorical sense, as well, such that all of a chief’s ceremonial prerogatives and privileges were known as his “box of treasures.”
Over the course of time, many of the ceremonial boxes on the coast came to reflect a common form with a similar layout. My Tlingit ancestors called the creature on this type of box “Gonakadeit”. It is said that this creature was in many ways a benevolent sea monster who provided all the wealth to the peoples. Gonakadeit was characterized by having a large human-like head, and whale-like parts. Since these boxes were traded extensively up and down the coast, it is believed that this crest—with its markers of wealth and abundance—was a perfect one for any chief’s greatest possessions.
“Box of Treasures: Shades of Grey (Phase IV)” is a limited edition print using the giclée method of printmaking. This print was released in August of 2017 and printed by Andy Everson at the artist’s own studio in Comox B.C. A total of 12 prints bear the title “Box of Treasures: Shades of Grey (Phase IV)” and are signed by Andy Everson: 10 in the primary edition bearing the numbers 1/10 through 10/10; 1 Artist’s Proof; and 1 Printer’s Proof. The finished stretched canvas measures about 24x48x1.5 inches.