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 David Boxley  (1952 - )

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Lived/Active: Alaska/Washington      Known for: ornamental totem wood carving, painting

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David  Boxley
An example of work by David Boxley
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Known for his elaborately decorated, symbolic totem poles, David Boxley has been so succesful that they are placed in a wide variety of locations: Epcot Center in Orlando, Florida; Knott's Berry Farm in California; the office of the Mayor and Microsoft Corporation in Seattle, Washington; and in the collections of the Emperor of Japan; the king and queen of Sweden; the President of West Germany, and the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage.

He began making his totems in 1992 in his native village of Metlakatla, Alaska, which "sealed his reputation as a culture bearer" for his Tsimshian tribe.    From his youth, he has had such strong feelings about non-native teachers coming to the remote island of his homeplace that he viewed them "as tantamount to an assembly of aliens."  He resented that Christian missionaries had suppressed much of the heritage of his people. 

Boxley was raised by his grandparents, and upon graduating from high school, was the class valedictorian and gave his speech in his native language of Sm'algyax.  He attended Seattle Pacific University, painting in his spare time and doing a series of over 50 depictions of his native culture.  He became a teacher and continued with this art pursuit, living between Alaska and Seattle, and also did basketball-team coaching.

In 1980, a wood-carving demonstration at a Seattle cultural center attracted his attention, which became a turning point in his life.  He bought carving tools, and using pictures, began making totem poles.  The more research he did, the more authentic his work became, although in retrospect, he wished he had worked with a tribal apprentice instead of from photographs and books.  He also did his own innovations, which was to depart from the traditional red and black exclusively and add a deep blue.

In 1986, he quit his teaching job, sold the sandwich shop he was running in his village, and moved with his family from Alaska to Kingston, Washington on the Olympic peninsula, where he continues to live today (2006).   From his studio there, he has reached many collectors with his wood carving and has also organized four dance groups of which one of them performed at the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC.   In addition, he is a song writer, having writen over forty in his native language.

Dottin Indyke, "David Boxley", Southwest Art, May 2006

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