March 4, 2013

Dramatic Potlatch Puppet by Art Thompson

Art Thompson, Red Cedar Potlatch Puppet, 41 1/2" x 18" x 8", $16,000 CAD

Currently in the gallery we are very lucky to be showing a dramatic Red Cedar Potlatch Puppet created by Art Thompson in the late 1980s. This piece was originally purchased by Leona Lattimer directly from Art Thompson, had since been in a private collection in Vancouver for twenty-five years and is now available once again for sale. Some Northwest Coast Native peoples used wooden puppets for ceremonial purposes in their secret societies. This particular piece is represented in the style of Dead Man “Olala”, who is a mythical cannibal spirit in Haida culture. The puppet would be worn so that the body fits over the head of the wearer, and the piece looks as if it is floating – a dramatic and frightening effect. The puppet’s long arms and legs would dangle and mimic the movements of the dancer; as the dancer moved, rattling noises would be generated by the arms and feet colliding with one another. The head of the puppet was moved in such a way that the cut-out eyes and white teeth would glow in the light, creating a melodramatic effect. 

An original Haida puppet figure is now featured in the Smithsonian Insitute in Washington, DC and another of Art Thompson’s puppets can be found in the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa, ON. Art Thompson’s Potlatch Puppet measures 41 ½” x 18” x 8” and is available for $16,000 CAD.

Information taken from translation of: Zeitgenossische Kunst der Indianer und Eskimos in Kanada By Gerard Hoffman. (1988: 300).

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