Robert Davidson: Influence of His Ancestors

Artist Robert Davidson, whose work is featured in the exhibition The Coe Collection of American Indian Art (on view December 6, 2011–October 14, 2012), discusses the influence of his ancestors on his own art.

Robert Davidson: My name is Robert Davidson. I come from the T’saalth Laanaas Gwaiigonay. That's the name of my clan. And we trace our lineage down to Haida Gwaii. When I say my ancestors, I'm including the whole of West Coast of British Columbia because we all had an interchange of ideas. I've been practicing Haida art since I was thirteen. A lot of what I'm doing today is exploring my ancestors and drawing on what they've established for centuries. When I started to explore my grandfather, Charles Edenshaw's, style I was really drawn by his finesse. He really had an incredible command of the art form both sculpturally and graphically. He had a very whimsical style that was so fresh and fluid. When I look at his work I feel there was so much joy in his creations and I think he was grinning all the time that he was carving. My generation, we don't have the same connection that my grandparents' generation had to their ancestors. Very few stories have survived. The language is almost extinct and it's only within the last forty- to forty-five years that we started to reconnect with those classical principles.

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