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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Chernobyl Mask (Allusion to Bakwas)

Chernobyl Mask (Allusion to Bakwas)


David Neel

Canadian, Kwagu'l, born 1960

Innovation requires the foundation of tradition and is the logical progression of a culture that is dynamic and responsive to change. Neel takes an ancient tradition and develops a personal interpretation in order to comment on contemporary history and society. Bakwas, also known as chief of the ghosts, is a sometimes malevolent man-like being who transforms others into ghosts. Here, with nuclear towers upon his forehead, he is cast as the ominous destroyer, in reference to the 1986 nuclear disaster in the Ukraine that ultimately took more than 4,000 lives and spewed widespread airborne contamination over great distances.
Red cedar wood, paint, cedar bark
28 x 14 x 8 in. (71.12 x 35.56 x 20.32 cm)
Margaret E. Fuller Purchase Fund
Now on view at the Seattle Art Museum


Exhibition HistorySeattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Native Visions: Northwest Coast Art, 18th Century to the Present, October 1, 1998 - January 31, 1999

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, The Art of Protest, April 27, 2000 - January 21, 2001

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Weird and Whimsical: Northwest Art from the Permanent Collection, January 4, 2001 - October 14, 2001

Seattle Art Museum acknowledges that we are on the traditional homelands of the Duwamish and the customary territories of the Suquamish and Muckleshoot Peoples. As a cultural and educational institution, we honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future. We also acknowledge the urban Native peoples from many Nations who call Seattle their home.