Left: Spirit of Beaver in a Landscape (Tlingit) by Helen Andersen, 1988. Gouache on paper. 21′ x 29.5″
Danica’s impish nickname for this picture is too catchy to let go, so we have taken to calling it SquareBob. Actually, the image derives from the frontlet typically seen on chiefs’ headdresses.
There is a lot going on in Helen’s Myths and Symbols series of paintings and frankly, I find some of the iconography difficult to interpret. This owes, no doubt, to my unfamiliarity with the aboriginal stories that inspired the pictures, but also to the personal and original ways Helen represented some of her ideas. The West Coast landscape, the totem poles and the central Beaver face are obvious enough, but the foreground elements mystify me.
The chief’s frontlet motif held an abiding fascination. Here it is again, this time rendered as a batik. This example was done nearly 2 decades earlier than SpongeBob.