Native American artist shares story of Salish tribes with Lower Queen Anne artwork

Look around Western Washington and the legacy of its early people is everywhere. They are remembered in city names, public parks and now as a new gateway to the entry the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood.

Artist and storyteller Roger Fernandes created Snoqual/Moon the Transformer, a finished wooden construction that shares elements of a mythic story told by many local Puget Sound Salish tribes. The artwork will be publicly dedicated on Nov. 18 at 2 p.m. at the Thomas Street Pedestrian Bridge at Thomas Street and Third Avenue West. Fernandes will talk about the artwork and tell the Salish story of Snoqual that inspired the piece and a Native American singer will sing a song of blessing as part of the program. Audio clips of Fernandes telling the story of Snoqual and talking about the artwork are available for download.

According to legend, Snoqual came through the world and transformed it to the way it is today. Carved in the Salish style of flat, low reliefs, the artwork is made up of two carved and painted cedar panels in a palette of traditional, natural earth pigments: black, red, white, blue and various shades of brown and ochre. Connecting the two panels is a cross beam with a metal cutout of Snoqual’s face at the center.  Translucent glass lies between two identical metal cutouts of Snoqual’s face allowing light to interact with the glass and metal part of the sculpture.

The elements of Snoqual/Moon the Transformer are combined to suggest the structure of a cedar plank house made by local tribes. The juxtaposition of wood with metal and glass in the artwork is a comment on the continued transformations brought to the Salish Tribe’s world by Snoqual, Western culture, the natural world and new technologies.

Fernandes is a member of the Lower Elwha Band of the Klallam Indians from the Port Angeles area. Fernandes’ work relates to art, language, ceremony and story. He tells Native American stories from this region for his tribe and other tribes of the Puget Sound area.

The piece addresses several cultural, philosophical and historical points, Fernandes said.

“One is that local Puget Salish culture accounted for dramatic change in the world as articulated by the Snoqual story. Another is that the Natives saw the powerful transformations wreaked by invading European and American cultures and would sometimes refer to them as 'Snoqual.' Another is that the Native cultures and their arts are impacted and influenced by new technologies, and that Native artists are quick to respond to such developments. Culture is never static,” he said.

The artwork was funded with Seattle Department of Transportation 1% for Art funds and commissioned by the Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs.