Artists' Profile: David Boxley
Tsimshian Carver and Performer
David Boxley is a Tsimshian carver from Metlakatla, Alaska. Born in 1952, he was raised by his grandparents. From them he learned many Tsimshian traditions including the language. After high school he attended Seattle Pacific University where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1974. He became a teacher and basketball coach to Junior and Senior high students in Alaska and Washington.
While teaching in Metlakatla in 1979 he began devoting considerable time to the study of traditional Tsimshian carving. Through researching ethnographic material and carvings from museum collections, Boxley has learned the traditional carving methods of his grandfather's people.
In 1986 he made a major career decision to leave the security of teaching and to devote all of his energies toward carving and researching the legacy of Northwest Coast Indian art. David Boxley has become a nationally recognized Indian artist showing and demonstrating his art in many parts of the United States and Europe.
In 1990, during the Goodwill Games Boxley was commissioned to carve the crown of a "Talking Stick." Boxley's carving of a unified American eagle and a Russian bear became a symbol of peace and harmony between the United States and Soviet Union and was an important part of the summer's Goodwill Games. Messages from President George Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev were inserted in a hollowed portion of the talking stick and athletes carried the stick from Spokane through Washington and Oregon to Seattle for the opening ceremonies. In the millennium year 2000, David was commissioned to carve a Talking Stick for the office of the Mayor of Seattle.
Boxley's functional and decorative pieces such as bentwood boxes, rattles, masks, prints and panels are in collections of the King and Queen of Sweden, the Emperor of Japan, the President of West Germany, the Mayor of Chongging (China), Microsoft, Walt Disney World, Knott's Berry Farm and numerous other private collectors of fine Northwest Coast art.
2012 Dreamcatcher Fund Gala video on David Boxley
David Boxley is the first Alaskan Tsimshian to achieve national prominence; he is particularly well respected as a totem pole carver, having carved 65 poles in the last 26 years. He has taught and demonstrated at the following museums and institutes: Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C.; Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.; Museum of History & Industry; Seattle, WA; Burke Museum, University of Washington, Seattle, WA; Sheldon Jackson College, Sitka, Alaska; Sitka Fine Arts Camp, Sitka, AK; Totem Heritage Center, Ketchikan, AK; Cornish Art Institute, Seattle WA; Heard Museum, Phoenix, AZ; Glasgow Arts Center, Glasgow, Scotland; Festival of the Pacific, Honolulu, Hawaii; Museum of Civilization, Ottawa, Canada; Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, Maryland; Epcot Center, Disney World, Florida; the Alaska Native Heritage Center, Anchorage Alaska; Yakutat and Hoonah Community Schools, Alaska; and the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA.
In all of David Boxley' s works of art, from totem poles, box drums to prints, he emphasizes Tsimshian style. In the recent resurgence of Native American cultural traditions, artists have become the culture bearers for their tribes. Boxley accepts this responsibility not only in his carving accomplishments, but by bringing the traditions he has learned in his path to being a carver back to his home village.
David has been deeply involved in the rebirth of Tsimshian culture through organizing and hosting Potlatches in Alaska and Washington. He has been responsible for the first Seattle Northwest Coast Potlatch in one hundred years. This historic event was held in 1996. It was such a success that another was held in 1997. David was also responsible for reintroducing the potlatch back to his home village of Metlakatla, Alaska. These Potlatches involved traditional cultural activities such as clan adoption, name giving, gift giving, ceremonial regalia dedication, and memorials as well as song and dance.
David has been directly involved in the formation of four successful dance groups: one in his home village of Metlakatla, Alaska, and others in Seattle, Washington. He led the Tsimshian Haayuuk for 6 years, and now has a new group called the Git-Hoan (people of the Salmon). David has written over 40 songs in his Native language, and carved many masks, rattles, paddles and other performance items.
"Artists from long ago inspire new generations of Indians to carry on the traditions of which they began. I am determined and dedicated to become the finest artist that I can be while at the same time helping to revitalize and carry on the rich culture of my tribe: I want my sons and other young Indian people to be proud of their heritage."