Reviving the “Lost” Art of Eugene Landry

Reviving the “Lost” Art of Eugene Landry

Thirty years after his death, a resilient Shoalwater Bay tribal artist has an exhibit in Astoria side by side with young tribal artists inspired by his example.
by Mike Francis
(originally published in HipFish Monthly, reprinted November 22 by Oregon Arts Watch online.)

 

Why are Eugene Landry’s paintings getting their first exhibition outside his southwest Washington hometown in 50 years, more than three decades after he died?

Landry was a gifted painter in oils and watercolors, and his story of creative persistence against enormous physical challenges would be compelling enough on its own. But the fact that the paintings were produced by a partly paralyzed artist living on a neglected reservation of Indigenous people, at a time when tribes like his fought merely for the right to have their existence recognized, makes the show at Astoria Visual Arts a powerful testament to human and tribal resilience.

Thanks to curator Judith Altruda of Astoria, who still keeps her home in Tokeland, Wash., home to the Shoalwater Bay tribal reservation, visitors to the gallery through Dec. 6 will see a representative sampling of Landry’s work, as well as the work of a new generation of tribal artists. They are filmmakers, photographers, painters, and beadworkers who are heirs to Landry’s tradition of creative expression…

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Exhibit Reception Highlights

Exhibit Reception Highlights

Portrait of Eugene Landry, an Artist, a Time and a Tribe, with Contemporary Shoalwater Bay Artists and Writers, opened at the Astoria Visual Arts Gallery on November 11.

“Thanks all who came to the opening of Eugene Landry – an Artist, a Time and a Tribe. We had a tremendous turn out! For the talk, Chinook council member, Devon Abing, graciously welcomed members of the Shoalwater Bay Tribe. Lee Shipman of Shoalwater presented Earl Davis and other veterans with flags for Veteran’s Day. Project organizer and curator Judith Altruda spoke about her connection to Gene Landry (1937-1988) and read from the recent publication of Squid magazine, a short story she wrote about Eugene’s portrait of Winona Mail Weber, painted in 1969. It was a great night!

See the show through December 6. AVA is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11-3, and by appointment.”

 

Chinook Indian Nation councilman Devon Abing, shortly before being joined by other members of the Chinook Nation welcomed attendees onto their ancestral homeland.

 

Shoalwater Bay tribal elder Lee Shipman presenting former Marine and tribal artist Earl Davis with a commemorative flag for Veterans’ Day.

Shoalwater Bay artist Earl Davis and his son Aiden, with Earl’s sculpture “Knowledge Bearers.”

 

Tribal historian Winona Weber with the portrait Eugene painted of her in 1969

 

The crowd during Artwalk gathering before Judith’s talk.

History panels address indigenous on Willapa (Shoalwater) Bay before and after European and American colonization.

 

Shoalwater Bay Museum docent Jackson Wargo, a member of the Chinook Nation, and one of the contributors to a book of tribal memoir distributed at the event.

 

 

 

 

A New Generation

A New Generation

Shoalwater celebrations

Shoalwater celebrations: Modern artists cherish, preserve tribal culture

  • Oct 28, 2023

Dakota Davis describes the photo of himself holding a shield, a blanket and wearing a cedar hat, as a prayer to his late grandfather, who owned the items. “I learn a lot about my family, about myself, who I am, where I’m from, by putting together these pieces and they become very powerful photos to me,” he says.

A month-long exhibit of art by members of northwest Pacific County’s Shoalwater Bay Tribe will open in Astoria next week.

Four living artists are being honored as part of a celebration of the life of Eugene Landry.

Landry, who died in 1988, painted images of the Shoalwaters during a key period in their history as they worked to retain their federal recognition. Landry’s story will be highlighted in the Nov. 9 edition of Coast Weekend.

The exhibit will be hosted by the Astoria Visual Arts gallery, 1000 Duane St., Astoria. It opens Nov. 11 and runs through Dec. 2. An all-day opening reception is planned noon to 8 p.m. Nov. 11 with a talk by curator Judith Altruda at 5 p.m. Conversations with the modern artists are planned 1 p.m. Dec. 2 at the AVA gallery.

To read the full story click here.

 

Here are details of the four whose work will be featured with their artists’ statements accompanying the exhibit.

Altruda, who lives in Tokeland and Astoria, is a metal artist who has dedicated hours to promoting the work of Landry since discovering a cache of 70 of his paintings in a disused Grayland auto shop in 2019.

Her comments on each of the artists accompanies their submitted texts:

Earl Davis, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, served as the Shoalwater Bay Tribe’s culture director from 2006 to 2023. He is pictured with a 1971 painting by Eugene Landry of his late father, Bruce Davis.

Earl Davis, a member of the Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe in Tokeland, Wash., is a tribal artist trained in the Coast Salish and Willapa Chinook art styles.

He works mostly in wood and metal and draws inspiration from historic pieces and traditional knowledge to create contemporary interpretations of ancient art of the region.

He was the Shoalwater Tribe’s culture director from 2006 to 2023 and served in the U.S. Marine Corps between 2000 and 2004.

Altruda noted that Davis is now a full-time artist who has public arts commissions. “He brings a body of art from this part of the coast,” she said, noting that coastal Southwest Washington tribal art differs from better-known Haida and other First Nations’ work from northern areas of the West Coast. “The coastal area has a different look,” she said. “He has taken that and put his own spin on it. He uses cutting-edge technology to create his art — he uses hand tools as well as laser cutters.”

Earl Davis works in wood and metal, drawing inspiration from historic pieces and traditional knowledge to create contemporary interpretations of ancient art.

Dakota Davis

“I’m Dakota Davis or Chutwin (Little Bear), son of Earl Davis and direct descendant of Bob Saliki. A lot of my photography is inspired by the stories of my ancestors, the nature around us, nostalgia, and whatever I’m really feeling at the time. I try to tie in myself as an object to the natural world around us.

For example the photo of me holding a brief case, dressed in an outfit that you would see someone wearing at a dinner table, represents a lost character with all these good stories, bad traumas, and experiences that he carries with him (the brief case) everywhere. Looking at the vast ocean, he doesn’t know where to journey to next.

I explore my cultural identity through photos of prayers. The photo of me holding the shield, with the blanket and cedar hat, all belong to my grandfather who passed away and I was sending a prayer to him. I learn a lot about my family, about myself, who I am, where I’m from, by putting together these pieces and they become very powerful photos to me.”

Altruda commended the vigor with which Dakota Davis embraces his heritage. “He is young and pursues his cultural identity through his photography,” she said. He can also be found working on boats, continuing the family tradition. “He fishes, and the Davises are a fishing family, so there’s some pride in that.”

 

Madison, a 24-year old tribal artist, has worked in multiple mediums, from makeup to ink on paper and digital art.

 

“My name is Madison; I am a 24-year old artist from the Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe. My family descends from the lower Chinook bands, the Chehalis and Nisqually. I work with multiple mediums from makeup, to ink on paper, digital art, and more recently, beadwork and sewing.

In late 2018, I fell into a kind of depression that I almost didn’t make it out of. One evening, I prayed for the first time in a long time. I sensed as if someone came to me to guide me and give me something to believe in.

This is when I started beading consistently every day. I started receiving dreams of my late Chitcha [grandma] Lorraine, she would show me glimpses of her work, asking favors of me, and so forth. I started journaling these dreams and asking my family members more about her, and our family lineage. She passed away when I was very young.

My Chitcha was a stellar beadwork artist. She would make these elaborate patterns in bracelets, earrings, hair pieces, belts, doll outfits, etc. I inherited a mini doll with a custom-beaded outfit when I was around six years old. I have yet to see all of the pieces that Chitcha left behind, but I know that they’re safely tucked away into the caring hands of my family members.

I feel as if it is my duty to continue asking my family about our lineage, to hunt down Chitcha’s beadwork pieces and find the pieces from my dreams, spend time with my family, and to carry on our traditions of making beautiful heirloom pieces.

Hiyas Masi. I thank you for providing me the opportunity to feel heard and seen.”

 

Altruda said she appreciates the way Madison’s modern work honors the memory of her creative grandmother, Lorraine Luwizi Anderson. “Madison uses herself as a canvas with her beading and make-up. The bead work comes from her grandmother, who inspired her. It is really cool to have that connection,” she said.

 

Sophia Anderson is a member of the Shoalwater Bay Tribe and grew up on the reservation on a rural coast of the Olympia Peninsula. Her work is fueled by her transition to life away from her roots after growing up on traditional land surrounded by her tribal community. She holds a bachelor’s in arts degree from the Evergreen State College and currently resides in Seattle.

Sophia Anderson paints on found wood panels and does beadwork, drawing inspiration from photographic records of her tribe’s history.

 

She paints on found wood panels, salvaged from a beach adjacent to the reservation, where the coastline has eroded down almost two miles a result of dams built on the Columbia River.

She draws inspiration for her paintings from photo references of her ancestors ranging from tintypes taken by Edward Curtis to family photos. Her beading is a meditative, healing gesture created in response to the content of her paintings. Fundamental to her practice is researching the documented history of her tribe; specifically looking at at the writings of James Swan through a critical socio-political lens.

Her mission ultimately is to interpret the relationships between genealogical and geographical history and trauma.

Anderson is Altruda’s grown daughter. There’s pride in her voice as she describes Anderson’s approach to art, using pieces of wood for her base. “It comes from homes destroyed on Washaway Beach [North Cove, WA]. It’s weather-worn, and irregular,” Altruda said. “It’s continuing something we are emphasizing—that commitment to place. That’s the thread running through all of it.”

 

To read the full story click here.