When I came to Washington State in the mid-1970’s, Northwest Coast Indian Art captured my imagination and secured my love as a decorative form. However, with increased exposure to Native history, art, and culture through my archeological experiences at Fishtown and Ozette and my twenty-three years teaching at Neah Bay, I came to understand that this art was much more than just a decorative form. This was a living art intertwined with function, symbolism, spirituality, and social significance.
The formal, two-dimensional Northwest Coast Indian painting tradition forms the foundation of my style. The art of painting on cedar, seen in the house fronts, interior screens, boxes, and chests, continually inspires and influences my work. Painting on wood, mostly red cedar, I use primary formlines to create the structure of my designs. In this way I try to stay true to the cultural traditions of the Northwest Coast, but these are not the only creative influences on my art.
I was first introduced to the Celtic art tradition in our many visits to Scotland. Celtic knotwork, spirals and other design elements began to influence my designs through my interest in Pictish standing stones, Celtic crosses, and especially illuminated manuscripts like the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Book of Kells. I was surprised to see the cultural similarities between Celtic and Northwest Indian art. Both cultures have many aspects in common being tribal, clan-oriented, art-rich, and having strong oral traditions.
The arts of Japan provide a third art tradition that inspires my designs, from mingei (or folk art) used for everyday life to the higher arts favored by samurai, the nobility, and the Imperial Court. From the traditions surrounding ceramics, textiles (especially kimono), and karakami-printed paper fusuma, I have developed an appreciation of and a love for pattern. Japanese woodblock prints, with their exquisite sense of composition and their two-dimensional, flat blocks of color, fit well within the coast formline foundation of my art. Finally, the asymmetry favored in Japanese design acts as a counter-balance for the strong bilateral symmetry favored by Northwest Coast Native artists.
The final and overlying inspiration for my art comes from the British Arts and Crafts Movement, in particular the Glasgow Style, and Japan's Mingei Movement. The philosophical foundations provided by Ruskin, Morris, and Yanagi have given me the courage to create my own art, without the fear of producing work that is somewhat less than the perfection expected of today’s manufactured world. Art is made to show the beauty of the natural world, and it links us to our place within it. I work to the best of my ability, and though the end product may be exploratory, the result is an honest expression of passion.
The Herons Stane Fall 2011
Gary Giovane Background Information
BAILLIE SCOTT'S WINDOW
. I have been
painting with acrylics on wood, specifically red cedar, for almost forty years
and have been greatly influenced by the arts and crafts of Northwest Coast
native peoples. I was first introduced
to Northwest Coast Indian culture and art in 1974 while doing archeology at the
Fishtown dig outside of La Conner, Washington.
At that time I was also exposed to the vibrant Fishtown arts community
along the North Fork of the Skagit
River. These powerful forces brought me to purchase
Bill Holm’s epic book and to start my journey as a student of the art. After several trips to Victoria
B.C., I began to study contemporary art through the silkscreen prints of Bill
Reid, Roy Vickers, and especially Tony Hunt.
I also began to purchase books to use as reference materials. From these sources I saw for the first time
the amazing painted housefronts, interior screens, and boxes made by master
painters of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I developed a great admiration and love for
the art and began to use these sources to teach myself to paint through
observation of the masterpieces illustrated within. This interest in the art was further enhanced while doing archeology at the Ozette site from 1975 to 1976. It was at Ozette where I made many lasting friendships (including my future wife, Leigh) and formed lifelong connections with the Makah people. While working at Ozette, I was able to observe “precontact” art from the site and to see how carved negative units were used to create positive spaces in the design. I don’t think I knew it at the time but this has had a strong effect on my own designs to this day. During this time I did several exploratory paintings on cloth (old bed sheeting).
From 1977 to 1980 Leigh and I moved to Memphis, Tennessee. It was while living in Memphis that I began painting on wood. These early attempts were part of my self-education to learn how to work within the formal style of the art. For personal interest, I did a computer analysis of chest designs back in the late 70’s based on complexity shown by the vertical stacking of positive and negative design units. This helped me design for a semi-bentwood chest that I eventually finished after we moved to Neah Bay.
In 1980 Leigh and I moved back to Neah Bay where we were employed as teachers. This allowed us to renew old friendships as well as to make many new ones. We remained there as teachers on the Makah Reservation up until 2003. While in Neah Bay, I had the opportunity to witness the living art of the Makah people through the dances, masks, other art objects used at many potlatches held there. I also had the chance to admire the artwork of many creative Makah and Nuu-chah-nulth artists, from Frank Smith (a transitional, “pre-Holm” carver) to Greg Colfax, Micah Vogel, Spencer McCarty, George David and Art Thompson. All of these experiences were life changing and have entered into my own artistic endeavors. During this time I continued to paint as part of my education, creating several paintings as time allowed. Reflecting my love for the beautiful painted screens of old, I painted three 5 foot by 8 foot screens. These larger paintings helped me progress as I continued to learn the painted form.
TREE OF LIFE
In 2003 Leigh and I made the difficult decision to move to La Conner to finish our teaching careers and to eventually retire. As it turned out, this was a good move. For me it was coming full circle, back to where I first came to Washington State in 1974. By this time I no longer wanted to paint in the traditional way. Being non-native, I wanted to distance myself from doing an art form to which I held no rights or prerogatives. Yet at the same time I did not want to extinguish a part of me that was very important. Since retiring in 2010, I have been able to form a hybrid art—one that has special meaning to me. Northwest Coast Indian art still forms the foundation of my hybrid style. However, the formal rules and design elements have been abandoned. Incorporated with in this foundation are elements from Celtic Art; in particular, the Book of Kells and the Celtic Revival designs of Archibald Knox. My interest in Celtic art
stems from our many family visits to Scotland. Our daughter Jessie and her husband Adam both
attended the Glasgow school
of Art and are currently living in Carnoustie. From this
connection I learned about Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Glasgow style, of which I greatly
admire. This led to my being influenced
by other British Arts & Crafts architect/designers, particularly M.H.
Baillie Scott and C.F.A. Voysey. They all
continue to play an important role in my designs. One final source of ideas and inspiration
comes from Japanese woodblock prints, from the ukiyo-e masters like Hokusai to
modern printmaker Kiyoshi Saito.
CARDINALS IN SNOW
All in all, it has been an extremely interesting journey. I am thankful for everyone who has aided me as a student of the art. I especially thank my wife Leigh for her support and collaboration. The exciting part is that there is still so much more to paint—still so much more to learn.
Gary A. Giovane P.O. Box 692 La Conner, WA 98257 Telephone: (360)-466-0518 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web Site: www.ggiovane.com
1980 Master of Arts in Teaching, Secondary Education, Memphis State University, Memphis, TN 1977 Bachelor of Arts, Anthropology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
ARCHEOLOGICAL & TEACHING EXPERIENCE
2003-2010 La Conner High School, La Conner, WA 1980-2003 Neah Bay High School, Neah Bay, WA 1975-1976 Ozette Archeological Project; Washington State University 1975 Indian Island Archeological Project; Washington State University 1974 Fishtown Archeological Project; Washington State University
Artwood Gallery, Fairhaven/Bellingham, WA Cattails & Dragonflies, La Conner, WA Matzke Fine Art Gallery, Camano Island, WA The River Gallery, Mt. Vernon, WA The Jansen Art Center, Lynden, WA The Schack Art Center, Everett, WA
2020 Anacortes Arts Festival, Arts at the Port Show, Anacortes, WA 2020 Jansen Art Center Spring & Summer Show, Lynden, WA 2020 Matzke Gallery Spring 2020 Show, Camano Island, WA--online 2020 River Gallery Spring On-line Show 2020, Mt. Vernon, WA 2019 Jansen Art Center Winter Show, Lynden, WA 2019 Skagit Artist's Fall Show/Art's Alive 2019, La Conner, WA 2019 Matzke Gallery “Honey, I Shrunk the Art” Show, Camano Island, WA 2019 Matzke Gallery Fall Art Auction 2019, Camano Island, WA 2019 Jansen Art Center Fall Show, Lynden, WA 2019 NW Art Beat Open Studio Tour, La Conner, WA 2019 Anacortes Arts Festival, Arts at the Port Show, Anacortes, WA 2019 ArtWood Gallery “New Work Show”, Bellingham, WA 2019 MVDA Summer Sips, Mt Vernon, WA—Skagit Runners 2019 Hadrian's Stone Design & Gallery June Biome Show, Edison, WA 2019 Matzke Gallery Spring 2019 Show, Camano Island, WA 2019 Schack Art Center’s “Pets on Parade” Show 2019, Everett, WA 2019 River Gallery Spring 2019 Show, Mt. Vernon, WA 2018 Hadrian Stone Design & Gallery December Art Show, Edison, WA 2018 Matzke Gallery “Honey, I Shrunk the Art” Show, Camano Island, WA 2018 Schack Art Center’s Holiday Art Show 2018, Everett, WA 2018 Skagit Artists Fall Show/Art’s Alive 2018, La Conner, WA 2018 Matzke Gallery Fall Art Auction 2018, Camano Island, WA 2018 The River Gallery Fall 2018 Show, Mt. Vernon, WA 2018 Schack Art Center’s “Schack-tober-fest” Show, Everett. WA 2018 Hadrian Stone Design & Gallery: August Featured Artist, Edison, WA 2018 Anacortes Arts Festival, Arts at the Port Show, Anacortes, WA 2018 NW Art Beat Open Studio Tour, La Conner, WA 2018 Schack Art Center’s “The Intersection of Art + Math”, Everett, WA 2018 The River Gallery Spring 2018 Show, Mt. Vernon, WA 2018 ArtWood Gallery: Featured Artist for March & April, Bellingham, WA 2017 Skagit Artists Fall Show/Art’s Alive 2017, La Conner, WA 2017 Matzke Gallery Fall Art Auction 2017, Camano Island, WA 2017 The River Gallery Fall 2017 Show, Mt. Vernon, WA 2017 Wild Fibers: Featured Artist for August, Mt. Vernon, WA 2017 NW Art Beat Open Studio Tour, La Conner, WA 2017 The River Gallery Spring 2017 Show, Mt. Vernon, WA 2017 ArtWood Gallery: Featured Artist for March & April, Bellingham, WA 2016 La Conner Brewery: Featured Artist for October thru December, La Conner, WA 2016 The River Gallery Fall 2016 Show, Mt. Vernon, WA 2016 Art in Bloom 2016, Anacortes, WA 2016 The River Gallery Spring 2016 Show, Mt. Vernon, WA 2016 ArtWood Gallery: Featured Artist for March & April, Bellingham, WA 2015 The River Gallery Fall 2015 Show, Mt. Vernon, WA 2015 Art’s Alive Invitational Show: Featured Artist, La Conner, WA 2014 Art’s Alive Merchants Exhibit Guest Artist: Artist’s Remarque, La Conner, WA 2013 Art’s Alive Emerging Artist Show, La Conner, WA 2013-19 The Museum of Northwest Art Auction, La Conner, WA 2013 Skagit Adult Day Care Auction, Sedro Woolley, WA 2011 Paint Me a River Too, Skagit County Historical Museum, La Conner, WA 2011 Smith & Vallee/The Re-Store Recycled Arts & Fashion Show, Bow, WA 2011 A Gathering of Native Artists, Skagit County Historical Museum, La Conner, WA 2005-12, 2014 Art’s Alive Open Art Show, La Conner, WA 2016-19
Skagit Artists 2017-present (board member 2018-2019) La Conner Arts Commission 2020