Carpe Fin is a major commission for SAM’s collection by Haida artist Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas. This monumental work has been created as a “Haida manga,” a unique approach developed by Yahgulanaas that blends several artistic and cultural traditions, including Haida formline art, Japanese manga, Pop Art, and graphic novels.
The artist populates this 6 x 19–foot watercolor mural with figures, landscapes, and action scenes inspired by a traditional Haida oral story: a sea mammal hunter goes in pursuit of food to feed his starving community and is taken underwater to the realm of a powerful spirit. The story is also linked to a 19th-century headdress in SAM’s collection carved by Yahgulaanas’s relative, Albert Edward Edensaw. Carpe Fin calls attention to issues of environmental degradation and the rupture of the values that honor human-nature interdependence.
This new installation also includes the artist’s drawings and sketches for Carpe Fin, a naaxin (Chilkat Robe) and pattern board, and the Sakíi.id headdress.
Image: Carpe Fin (detail), 2018, Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, Haida, b. 1954, watercolor and ink on handmade Japanese paper, 6.5 x 19.7 ft., Seattle Art Museum, Ancient and Native American Art Acquisition Fund, McRae Foundation and Karen Jones, 2018.30, © Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas.