Write Around PAM: Shaun Peterson

Circling Ravens II. Shaun Peterson. 2014. Pigment and Cor-Ten steel on red cedar. 2 in x 22 in diameter. Round wooden circle with a bright red edge, a strip of flat gray with carving revealing the natural cedar color. The pattern of a beak with two oval eyes as seen from a front-facing perspective is repeated four times around the circle. Inside is a flat black square with rounded edges with four crow heads carved into the black with shiny black marbles as eyes. The raven heads are viewed from a side perspective and have intricate carvings revealing eyes, beak, face feathers, and a neck. A smaller square in the middle of the ravens is filled with repeated patterns that resemble crow footprints and a four point star in the middle.

Ravens hold special significance and symbolism in many cultures and traditions, and especially in the Coast Salish peoples of the Pacific Northwest, as seen here in Shaun Peterson’s Circling Ravens II. These birds are woven into art, into storytelling, into deep personal and cultural connections. Peterson, whose Native name is Qwalsius, uses the phrase “traditional innovation” to describe how his work integrates traditional Coast Salish imagery and stories with contemporary materials and issues. “I hope people are interested to learn more about the stories behind the pieces themselves,” he says. We encourage you to begin with the artist’s website and blog.

Taking this piece as inspiration, we invite you to spend some time today considering an animal, plant, or other part of the natural world that carries deep symbolism or meaning for you, and then writing about it.

First, spend a minute writing a list of 5 animals, plants, or other things from the natural world that are meaningful to you. They can be as specific or as general as you’d like. 

Then, choose 1 item from your list and use it as inspiration for this freewrite. 

We have 2 prompts to help you get started. As always, you can use one, both, or write whatever else comes. Just set a timer for 12 minutes and keep your pen or pencil moving.

I’ll never forget… /  You taught me…

Writing in community is powerful. We are grateful to our longtime partner Write Around Portland for the writing prompts and inspiration. You can revisit past posts in the PAM+NWFC blog and look for new posts every Sunday. Please share your work with us! @writearoundpdx @portlandartmuseum #RespectWritingCommunity #WriteAroundPAM #qwalsius @qwalsius

Shaun Peterson (Puyallup and American), Circling Ravens II, 2014, pigment and Cor-Ten steel on red cedar, Museum Purchase: Funds provided by Barbara Christy Wagner, © unknown, research required, 2014.92.1

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