Native Art Skates Into Spring

Three cheers for the United States Postal Service for again selecting Native American artwork to grace new stamps in 2023.

Two years ago, the USPS issued the Raven Story stamp, created by Tlingit Athabaskan Alaska artist Rico Worl. When it was issued, Worl said, “I hope this stamp inspires people to learn more about Alaska Native and Native American cultures as both rich traditional people and modern innovative and creative people.“Image title

Indeed, his mixed modern and traditional formline designed Raven was inspiring and you might want to hop down to your local post office to see if you can still purchase some to adorn your next birthday card to your auntie or the payment on your electric bill.

This year, the Art of the Skateboard stamp series showcases the vibrant artwork that adorns the skate decks of four United States artists, two of whom are Native American. Di’Orr Greenwood is a Navajo artist from northern Arizona whose design features the colors of the rising or setting sun, framed by eagle feathers on either end. Crystal Worl, Rico Worl’s sister, is a Tlingit Athabaskan artist whose vibrant skateboard designs sport a stunning blue salmon design. Congratulations to you both!         

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We were able to visit with Crystal this week before launching the stamps and learned a lot more about her and her work. “Rico and I used to longboard and then started painting on them.  We wanted to make the art affordable, and it was also neat to see young people excited about their identity, in a sport that gets them moving, gets them outside”. She noted that it wasn’t always easy to find recreation for urban Natives, but “pavement is everywhere” and she really loved the agility, balance and mind-power required to be a great skateboarder. Painting on them turned out to be “a really cool art surface and now our designs are on basketballs, skis and snowboards.”

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Formline is the word used to identify a Pacific Northwest Coast visual art style popular among Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian Tribes. The roots of this work were passed down from one generation to another. Crystal said she learned from her grandparents and extended family “who made sure we know who we were, how to fillet a fish, hunt a seal and know the art. They also emphasized the importance of going to college.” After Crystal’s formal study at the Institute of American Indian Art, she studied with Canadian Haida carver Robert Davidson to learn the ABCs of formline, their visual language. 

Today, you can appreciate this rich art tradition by putting these beautiful stamps on your mail, and if you are in Alaska, you can see Crystal Worl’s artwork on murals around Juneau and Anchorage. If she is in town, you can make an appointment to visit the studio and add some serious artwork to your collection. You can also find the work from Trickster Studio at museum shops and galleries throughout  Alaska, Washington and British Columbia, Canada  

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