Carving the spirit world out of wood at a Langley gallery

Arlo Morgenweck's “Wolf Mask with Human Spirits

Head down to Langley for a brush with the spirits.

Bush Point area woodcarver Arlo Morgenweck is one of the featured artists-of-the-month through June at the Whidbey Art Gallery on Second Street in downtown Langley.

Morgenweck said he was inspired to start carving about 15 years ago after a trip to Europe.

“But knowing that I could not compete with the painters and architects, I looked closely at the woodcarving,” he said.

He found mentors in the Seattle area who were focused on Northwest Indian carving, particularly his teacher, Jim Ploegman, a master carver under whose tutelage he developed his own style.

“Mainly I just wanted to carve wood so much that I accepted Jim and a couple of other guys to be my mentors; started with that style,” he said.

Morgenweck only recently started showing his sculptures, many of which follow the designs of the Quinault Indian Nation as taught to him by Ploegman, who was adopted into the family of that tribe and is now a sometime woodcarving teacher and toolmaker among the Quinault.

Morgenweck said his masks, bentwood boxes and other pieces that he creates are made from both local wood and from that found as far north as Ketchikan, Alaska, including Western red cedar, alder, Alaska yellow cedar and yew.

The former school psychologist and counselor said Native American carvings are grounded in the spirit world and the transition between the human and the animal worlds.

“They believe the spirit will die as an animal,” Morgenweck said.

“There are lots of stories where people transform into an animal spirit and back again. It’s during that transition that the mask is captured,” he said.

To find out more about this show or the gallery, visit or call the gallery at 221-7675.