Whidbey artist Jerry Hill has been connected to Native American art forms ever since he bought his first knife at age 7 and carved his first mask.
The summers of his childhood were spent exploring the regions of the Puget Sound, British Columbia and Alaska, where he soaked up the art and culture of the First Nations People.
Through the course of his 37 years as a working artist, he has made countless earrings, pendants, pins, rings, buckles and a wide selection of sculptured fused glass and copper light fixtures, all which express his love and respect for Native American folklore.
Honored by the First Nations People several years ago for his contributions to Northwest coastal art and acknowledged as a “master artist,” Hill has come full circle since carving that first mask.
The artist was recently commissioned by members of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s 7 Cedar’s Casino to create the ultimate sculptured light centerpiece for the casino’s new Longhouse Market on Sequim Bay.
Hill designed a 7-by-7-by-4-foot chest constructed of steel, flame-sprayed in copper and finally patinaed.
The top of the chest is made of hand-raised copper to represent the chest lid.
Metal halide lighting connected to 750 fiber-optic strands lights the inside of the sculpture so that light can move through the different strands, creating a pattern of moving light and energy.
Blacksmith artist Jeff Holtby, of Whidbey Architectural Iron, made the massive, hand-forged iron chain and hangers that will hold the 600-pound fixture once it is installed on a central beam of the longhouse.
Hill has called the light-infused sculpture “Raven Steals All the Light and Energy of the World.”
The idea for the title, Hill said, came from a Native American story entitled “The Raven Steals the Light.”
Hill used the story to infuse his personal expression into the piece.
“Raven is originally white, and I represent him circling around the bottom of the chest,” Hill said.
“Two sides of the chest depict the ‘Chief of the Sky’s’ house and the remaining two sides represent all the light and energy of the world symbolized by the face and rays of the sun.”
In Native American lore, the raven, with her complete blackness, represents the “great mystery of the void,” or the black hole in space which draws in all energy toward itself and releases it in new forms.
How appropriate then that Hill has created a huge sculpture of light that will release its energy on all who venture into this new building.
“The artists and craftsmen I’ve watched and learned from over the years taught me my art, and helped form my values,” Hill said.
“Through my art I attempt to reflect the magic and majesty in our world.”
To see more of Hill’s designs, visit www.jerryhilldesigns.com or call him at 331-8876.