Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas
Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas is active/lives in British Columbia / Canada. Michael Yahgulanaas is known for sculpture, painting, drawing, graphics, illustration, cartoons, teaching.
Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas
Biography from the Archives of askART
Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas (1954)
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An important Canadian Haida sculptor, painter, draftsman, graphic artist, illustrator, author, cartoonist, public speaker, community leader and educator, Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas was born in Prince Rupert, Canada and currently lives in Vancouver, Canada. Only a few Canadian museums currently collect his works; however, two of the most important museums in the world – the British Museum (London) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York) – have major works by Yahgulanaas in their permanent collections, a dual tribute that has eluded even the most famous and highly prized Canadian artists. (1)
His mediums include acrylics, ink, graphite, pencil, pencil crayon, watercolors, found objects (especially 1992 Volvo sunroofs), steel, aluminum, polished stainless steel, Sharpie, ceramics, mixed mediums, animated film and manga books. His subjects are symbolism, myths, legends, spirituality, humor, portraits, figures, fantasy and social commentary. His styles could be described as Animation Art*, Cartoon*, Formline Design*, Graphic Art*, Manga (Japanese-style comics/graphic novel), Modernist Haida Art* and Pop Art.*
Yahgulanaas’ art education includes “briefly studying art in Vancouver in the mid-1970s” and occasionally working with Robert Davidson in Haida Gwaii [aka: Queen Charlotte Islands] (c.1970s – 1990s). During that time Yahgulanaas' primary occupation was as an environmentalist and political activist.
Quote: “For a period, he was an elected chief councillor for the Haida, and he also sat on numerous committees, negotiating jurisdictional disputes between the Haida and various levels of government. “I was working with other people in the community on issues related to the land, social justice, offshore oil, and gas transport, these sorts of things,” he says.” (2)
Yahgulanaas only became a full-time artist in 2000. Since then his works have been included in an impressive array of group exhibitions at important public venues; such as “The Last Voyage of the Black Ship”, Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver, Canada (2003); “Red White 100% Design”, Canada House, London, England (2004); “Raven Travelling: Two Centuries of Haida Art”, Vancouver Art Gallery, B.C. (2006); “Paint B.C., Painting since the 1960s”, Vancouver Art Gallery, B.C. (2006); “Challenging Traditions: Contemporary First Nations Art of the Northwest Coast”, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, Ontario (2009); “BC Scene”, National Arts Centre, Ottawa, Canada (2009); “Visions of British Columbia: A Landscape Manuel”, Vancouver Art Gallery, B.C. (2010); “Ethnographic Terminalia – New Orleans”, Du Mois Gallery, New Orleans, U.S.A. (2010); “Shore, Forest and Beyond: Art from the Audain Collection”, Vancouver Art Gallery, B.C. (2011); “Haida Manga Reading Room”, Gendai Gallery, Toronto, Canada (2011); “Objects of Exchange: Social and Material Transformation on the Late Nineteenth-Century Northwest Coast”, Focus Gallery, Bard Graduate Center, New York City (2011); “Extraordinary Stories from the British Museum”, Western Australian Museum, Perth, Australia (2012); “Treasures of the Worlds Cultures”, Manarat al Saadiyat Gallery, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (2012); “Beat Nation: Art, Hip Hop and Aboriginal Culture”, Vancouver Art Gallery, B.C. ( 2012); and “Indigenous Beauty”, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle (2015).
His work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver, Canada (2007); Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Canada (2009); Haida Gwaii Museum, Skidegate, Canada (2010 and 2015); Thunder Bay Art Gallery, Thunder Bay, Canada (2011); and Audain Gallery, University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada (2012).
His works have also been in solo and group exhibitions at prominent commercial galleries such as Grunt Gallery, Vancouver; Douglas Udell Gallery, Edmonton; Trepanier Baer Gallery, Calgary; Masters Gallery, Calgary; and Stonington Gallery, Seattle.
According to the Canadian Heritage Information Network* and individual museum sources, his works are in the permanent collections of the British Museum (London, England), Burnaby Art Gallery (Burnaby, B.C.), Glenbow Museum (Calgary, Alberta), Haida Gwaii Museum (Skidegate, B.C.), Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), Museum of Anthropology (University of British Columbia, Vancouver), and the Vancouver Art Gallery (B.C.). (3)
The original locations of Yahgulanaas’s monumental works are the Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver, Canada (Meddling in the Museum – 2007); Geist Magazine, 111 West Hastings Street, Vancouver (RE ME MB ER – 2008); the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art, Vancouver, Canada (Continuum – 2009); Thunderbird Arena, University of B.C., Vancouver (Take Off – 2009); Kensington Park, Vancouver, Canada (Abundance Fenced – 2011); Riverside Park, Kamloops, Canada (Meeting of the Rivers – 2014); and the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet, Vancouver International Airport, Vancouver, Canada (Sei – 2015).
Yahgulanaas is the author and illustrator of the books A Tale of Two Shamans (2001); The Last Voyage of the Black Ship (2002); A Lousy Tale (2004); Flight of the Hummingbird: A Parable for the Environment (2008); Red: A Haida Manga (2009); and The Little Hummingbird (2011).
He is the illustrator of the books The Declaration of Interdependence: A Pledge to Planet Earth (2010); The Canoe He Called Loo Taas (2010); and Old Growth (2011).
In 2008, he adapted and animated the Bill Reid (see askART) short story The Ravens Call to film. (4)
His honors include awards from the Canada Council (2006) and the B.C. Arts Council (2015); and, the 13th Annual Independent Publishers Book of the Year award for Flight of the Hummingbird: A Parable for the Environment (2009). In 2012, he was named the Audain Professor of Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific Northwest, University of Victoria, B.C.; and, in 2015 he was Artist in Residence at the American Museum of Natural History, New York. He is an External Advisory Board Member of the Museum of Anthropology (2009 – present).
(1) Please note: The four greatest Canadian artists based on their highest auction results are Paul Kane, Jeff Wall, Lawren Harris and Emily Carr; also, Lawren Harris and Emily Carr would easily be ranked as the most famous/well known Canadian artists by Canadians. There are no works by Paul Kane in the British Museum or Metropolitan Museum of Art; there is one Jeff Wall work in the MET, none in the BM; there are two Lawren Harris 11 X 8 graphite drawings in the BM, but no major works and no works at all in the MET; and there are no Emily Carr works in the BM or MET. Sources: Canadian Art Sales Index – 2017 Edition (2016) Westbridge Publications; and the British Museum and Metropolitan Museum of Art websites. – M.D. Silverbrooke
(2) Source: Douglas & McIntyre website.
(3) Researchers please note: The three Yahgulanaas works in the British Museum and the one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art are illustrated in color on the museums’ websites; an example of his Haida Manga cartoons is featured on the Collections page of the Haida Gwaii Museum; and the Museum of Anthropology (UBC) has over 100 Yahgulanaas drawings and paintings illustrated on its website. – M.D. Silverbrooke
(4) The film the The Ravens Call can be viewed online courtesy of the Virtual Museum of Canada and the Bill Reid Foundation (search The Ravens Call). – M.D. Silverbrooke
Canadian Art Sales Index – 2017 Edition (2016), edited by Anthony R. Westbridge; Westbridge Publications, Vancouver
The Seriousness of Play: The Art of Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas (2015), by Nicola Levell; Black Dog Publishing Limited, London, U.K.
Native Art of the Northwest Coast: A History of Changing Ideas (2013), edited by Charlotte Townsend-Gault, Jennifer Kramer, and Ki-ke-in; UBC Press, Vancouver/Toronto
Beat Nation: Art, Hip Hop and Aboriginal Culture (2012), by Kathleen Ritter and Tania Willard; Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver
Shore, Forest and Beyond: Art from the Audain Collection (2012), by Ian M. Thom; Douglas & McIntyre/ Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver
Objects of Exchange: Social and Material Transformation on the Late Nineteenth-Century Northwest Coast: selections from the American Museum of Natural History (2011), edited by Aaron Glass; Bard Graduate Center, New York; Distributed by Yale University Press, New Haven
Old Growth (2011), edited by Liz Park, art by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas; Read Leaf, Vancouver
The Canoe He Called Loo Taas (2010), by Amanda Reid-Stevens, illustrated by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas; Benjamin Brown Books, Vancouver
The Declaration of Interdependence: A Pledge to Planet Earth (2010), by David Suzuki et al; Greystone Books, Vancouver
Red: A Haida Manga (2009), Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas; Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver
Challenging Traditions: Contemporary First Nations Art of the Northwest Coast (2009), by Ian M. Thom, McMichael Canadian Art Collection; published by Douglas & McIntyre
Visions of British Columbia: A Landscape Manual (2009), edited by Bruce Grenville and Scott Steedman; Vancouver Art Gallery and Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver
Flight of the Hummingbird: A Parable for the Environment (2008), by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, Wangari Maathai, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama; Greystone Books, Vancouver
Raven Travelling: Two Centuries of Haida Art (2006), by Daina Augaitis et al; Vancouver Art Gallery and Douglas & McIntyre
Paint: A Psychedelic Primer (2006), by Monika Szewczyk; Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver
A Lousy Tale (2004), by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas; Rocking Raven Comix, British Columbia
Canadian Heritage Information Network*
American Museum of Natural History website
British Museum website
Metropolitan Museum of Art website
Museum of Anthropology website
Vancouver City website
Vancouver Airport Authority website
Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas website
Acknowledgement: Thank you to Howard Diner, a good friend and keen observer of talent, for his prescience in introducing the author to the artist and his work several years ago.
* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see AskART.com. Glossary http://www.askart.com/AskART/lists/Art_Definition.aspx
Written and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke.
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