2003 Rakow Commission Artist: Preston Singletary
Preston Singletary (2003)
Never Twice the Same (Tlingit storage box)
Preston Singletary (American, b. 1963)
United States, Seattle, Washington, 2003
Cast, waterjet-cut, cut, and sandblasted glass; assembled
H: 47.3 cm, W: 39.5 cm, D: 39.5 cm
2003.4.83, 18th Rakow Commission
Preston Singletary is a Seattle artist who is descended from a Tlingit clan of southeastern Alaska. The Tlingit are one of several Native American tribes whose home is the Pacific Northwest Coast, which extends from southern Alaska to Oregon. Singletary's work is imbued with the sophisticated and vibrant artistic traditions of the Northwest Coast. He studies ancient designs made in traditional materials, such as cedar, shell, and bone, and he re-creates them in a modern, nontraditional medium: glass.
Singletary's early work in glass was characterized by opaque, brightly colored vessels that echoed the refined forms of mid-20th-century Italian and Swedish design. With the encouragement of the Native American glassblower Tony Jojola, Singletary changed his focus in 1987, and he began to incorporate Northwest Coast designs into his work.
Singletary began his research into Northwest Coast art and his cultural heritage by learning traditional formline design. (Ovoid and U-shaped forms are characteristic of formline, which is used in all Northwest Coast art.) He proceeded slowly in his new work, and he asked other Native American artists to critique his designs. He was careful to develop images that related to the totem of his family and clan.
Singletary considers the designs used in Never Twice the Same (Tlingit storage box) to be similar to a jazz improvisation. Although there are rules for the flow of the line, and its thickness and balance, there are also cultural and personal styles. Formline design may also be compared with calligraphy, in which there are many variations, and in which a unique, personal style might begin to emerge after years of refining the art.
Never Twice the Same (Tlingit storage box) is full-%%scale%% in relation to a traditional cedar box. The decoration is a formline design with no particular meaning; it is intended to be aesthetically pleasing. This use of formline design was traditionally employed when an object was made for trade, and when it would not be appropriate to give away a design that belonged to a specific family or clan.