'Diving Raven' gets a home

Totem created by Rick Beasley in 2006 while onboard the Zeiderdam

Posted: Friday, July 11, 2008

With help from his twin brother, Mick, carver Rick Beasley installed his totem pole, "Diving Raven," on Monday at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum.

"The museum is excited to put 'Diving Raven' on exhibit," said Jane Lindsey, the museum's director. "The Juneau-Douglas City Museum was fortunate to acquire this artwork for the permanent collection by Richard Beasley through the Rasmuson Art Initiative."

"Diving Raven" is a trail marker, a culturally modified tree, created by Beasley in 2006 onboard the cruise ship Zeiderdam during an artist-in-residence program on board the ship, Lindsey said.

"The process of abalone shell inlay is documented in an upcoming publication by Sealaska Heritage Institute and University of Washington Press featuring master carver Richard Beasley," Lindsey added.

According to Lindsey, Beasley is Tlingit, a Raven of the Coho clan from Juneau. He began carving in the eighth grade through the Indian Studies Program in the Juneau School District and continued through graduation from Juneau-Douglas High School in 1976.

He graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in metal design in 1988 and has since specialized in the study and implementation of classic Tlingit art forms, including totem poles, masks, canoes, jewelry, limited edition prints and fabrics.

The spruce wood carving draws inspiration from trail markers found in the Northwest Coast.

"'Diving Raven' is traditional in form and carving technique but innovative in subject matter and inlay of abalone, operculum and human hair," Lindsey said. "This original composition depicts Raven diving down into the water after sea urchins. Raven must pull himself down into the kelp. The large face at the bottom represents a rock that the kelp attaches itself to. The image is surrounded by bark. Trail markers do not usually exhibit the more complex composition that we see in Diving Raven, and Beasley refers to this piece as a 'mini-totem.'"

According to Lindsey, trail markers were used to establish clan property boundaries and identify meeting places along trading trails.

"Beasley is the only artist that the museum knows of in this area who has brought back this type of carving to the Juneau area and has executed a series of markers for the Mount Roberts Tramway in Juneau and Bartlett Cove in Glacier Bay," Lindsey said. "Beasley is a well respected member of the Juneau art community, known for his metal work and wood carving. He is recognized for his mastery of traditional carving techniques and his ability to develop and apply innovative and creative sensibilities to the art form."

Beasley is a featured artist at the University of Washington campus library art gallery and is represented by the Legacy Ltd., in Seattle, Wash. The Legacy specializes in museum quality contemporary and Northwest Coast Indian Art.

Beasley has taught several classes for the University of Southeast Alaska, the Juneau School District and the community. Emerging and established artists, such as Donald Gregory (Heendei), pay tribute to Beasley as an early teacher and inspiration, Lindsey said.

The abalone inlay in "Diving Raven" is documented in a how-to-carve tutorial which features Beasley. This publication illustrates Beasley demonstrating step-by-step instructions on carving, mixing natural pigment paints and inlay of shell and hair. This project is a partnership of Sealaska Heritage Institute and the University of Washington Press with photographer Mark Kelley. A CD will accompany the book.

"This publication will give the museum the added bonus of documentation of the artist at work on a piece that is in its collection," Lindsey added.

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