Contrasting Styles

Part of the Totems to Turquoise exhibition.


Northwest Coast art is often sculptural and fluid, while Southwest art typically embraces color and angular geometry.

In Southwest Native arts, color is a primary mode for communicating ideas. This painterly style is frequently achieved in jewelry by shaping, cutting and inlaying colorful gems. Southwest styles often feature straight lines and angles, perhaps influenced by the landscape-the region's flat horizons and mesas create an angular setting.

Northwest Coast art is largely based on a tradition of woodcarving, and even jewelry is essentially sculptural; indeed, these artists often call themselves "jewelry carvers." Artists working in metals, mostly silver and gold, hammer and incise their pieces; additional color is infrequent. And here, angular shapes give way to the curving "formlines" that characterize many Northwest Coast art forms.