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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Keet Shagoon (Killer Whale)

Photo: Susan Cole

Keet Shagoon (Killer Whale)


Preston Singletary

Native American, Tlingit, born 1963

The Killer Whale image is my family crest symbol. This image is presented in the form of a screen that would be used to separate the chief's quarters from the rest of the clan house. It provides a portal for a chief to make a dramatic entrance when entertaining guests. I like to look at it as a metaphor for the term 'threshold.' The medium of glass can be a threshold to the future for the cultural growth of Native people.

Preston Singletary, 2003

Keet Shagoon, or Killer Whale, takes the traditional form of an interior house screen and transforms it into glass. The bold design features a split killer whale, the blow hole represented by the circles on either side of the whale's head. Preston Singletary refers to this contemporary version of an older screen as "modern heritage art."
Fused and sand carved glass
72 x 92 x 3/8 in. (182.9 x 233.7 x 1cm)
Purchased in honor of John H. Hauberg with funds from the Mark Tobey Estate Fund, John and Joyce Price, the Native American Art Support Fund, Don W. Axworthy, Jeffrey and Susan Brotman, Marshall Hatch, C. Calvert Knudsen, Christine and Assen Nicolov, Charles and Gayle Pancerzewski, Sam and Gladys Rubinstein, SAM Docents, SAMS Supporters, Frederick and Susan Titcomb, and Virginia and Bagley Wright
Provenance: Purchased from the artist 2003
Photo: Susan Cole
Not currently on view

The medium of glass can be a threshold to the future for the cultural growth of Native people.

Preston Singletary, 2003

Glass Art on the Northwest Coast

"The medium of glass can be a threshold to the future for the cultural growth of Native people." Preston Singletary, 2003

Glass is not an entirely new material for Northwest Coast Native artists. Glass beads made in Venice or Bohemia were introduced to the Northwest Coast by Russian fur traders in the eighteenth century. These beads and other materials were readily and creatively adopted by Native artists in their work and even encouraged experimentation in the creation of works by Native artists.

Just as Native Northwest Coast carvers have trained as apprentices with master carvers for many hundreds of years, contemporary glass artists often produce their work through apprenticeship with a master. Preston Singletary continues this tradition in his work with other Native artists and in his plans to teach younger artists.
Detail of beadwork, 91.1.10

How Was Keet Shagoon Created?

To create the design on the surface of Keet Shagoon, Preston Singletary transferred a drawing of the image to the glass, which had been covered with a protective film. The film was then cut through in the areas where the etching was to appear on the surface during the sandblasting process. In this work, the protected, non-sandblasted areas create the black formlines of the design. On working with glass Preston Singletary has said, "Glass is such a fascinating process-it's just the heat and the fire, the fact that you're working with this material-cutting through glass is just a really wild concept."
Preston Singletary in his studio
Courtesy Preston Singletary Studio

View a Map of the Northwest Coast

Map of Northwest Coast
© Seattle Art Museum

Other Glass Works in SAM's Collection

Riverstone, 1997, Lino Tagliapietra, 2005.277
Yellow and Black Mosaic Vase, 1998, Dante Marioni, 2005.232

The Making of Keet Shagoon

Keet Shagoon, or Killer Whale, represents Preston Singletary's inherited Tlingit crest. Made up of multiple pieces of fused and sand-carved glass, Keet Shagoon makes reference to the carved-wood house screens that are placed at one end of a large cedar-plank house. Singletary was inspired by the nineteenth century Tlingit Raven screen in SAM's collection in creating this work, which was made for the 2003 exhibition Preston Singletary: Threshold at the Seattle Art Museum.
Yéil X'eenh (Raven Screen), ca. 1810, Tlingit, Kadyisdu.axch, 79.98


Preston Singletary discusses his work


Exhibition HistorySeattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Preston Singletary: Threshold, May 22, 2003 - November 30, 2003
Published ReferencesSeattle Art Museum: Bridging Cultures, London: Scala Publishers Ltd. for the Seattle Art Museum, 2007, p. 31

Brotherton, Barbara, Native Art of the Northest Coast, A Community of Collectors, Seattle, WA: Seattle Art Museum, 2008, p. 143, illus. fig. 2.

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

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