Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas is an award-winning Haida multidisciplinary contemporary artist, author, and public speaker. Within his practice, Yahgulanaas uses Haida manga imagery in a variety of mediums and forms—paintings on paper, canvas, metal, and board—to spark conversation around contemporary social issues. Deconstruct the Box takes a look at Yahgulanaas’ full body of work, from drawings and paintings to sculptures and large scale installations.
In Studio with Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas
The use of copper and automobiles features prominently in several of Michael’s work. Pedal to the Meddle (2007) features the use of auto-body paint, argillite dust, and copper leaf on a reworked Pontiac Firefly. Bone Box (2007) also utilizes copper materials with its use of copper pipe and cranks.
The series has expanded to more than a dozen pieces, and Yahgulanaas has continued to explore the use of copper and automobile parts in his subsequent Flappes series, which were shaped to look like the gas cap lid doors of cars.
The ongoing Coppers from the Hood series began as part of the Meddling in the Museum exhibit at the Museum of Anthropology in 2007, featuring four car hoods coated in precious metals and painted with Yahgulanaas’ signature Haida Manga imagery.
Welded to look like traditional copper shields - an instrument of territorial claims once belonging to chiefs and high-ranking families - and citing the automobile as a contemporary indicator of economic status and class, Yahgulanaas mobilized the combined forms to critique the Canadian government’s inaction towards environmental issues affecting shared, unceded lands.
Urban Reserve, 2022
Below the Reef, 2022
Visit some of Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas' Public Art Installations
Take Off (2010)
Take Off is an 8 metre tall sculpture originally commissioned for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. Constructed out of Volvo automobile fenders, steel, copper, gold and pigments, the piece is structured to mimic a mallard duck’s flight path when it takes off. On top of the copper leaf background, Yahgulanaas also painted a hockey goalie in his signature Haida Manga style using pigments and gold leaf.
"In a gorgeously illustrated exploration of the art of Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, Mischief Making disproves any notion that play is frivolous. Deploying mischievous tactics, Yahgulanaas shines a spotlight on serious topics.
Expressive and exuberant, comic and imaginative: these characteristics suffuse the work of the internationally recognized creator of Haida manga. His distinctive style stretches, twists, and flips the formlines of classic Haida art to create imagery that resonates with the graphic vitality of Asian manga. Mischief Making delineates the evolution of the artist’s visual practice into a uniquely hybrid aesthetic, uncovering its philosophical underpinnings. Initially focused on paper-based narratives, his work has expanded into painted canvases, mixed-media installations, repurposed automobile parts, large-scale public art projects, and animated forms. Yet despite its mutability, Yahgulanaas’s art is consistently engaged with contemporary cultural concerns, investigating the intersections of Indigenous and other worldviews, the politics of land, cultural heritage, and global ecological affairs.
Mischief Making reveals the artist’s deep understanding of the seriousness of play. His refiguring of lines and stories opens up a realm in which the disruption of what’s expected allows different ways of experiencing, knowing, and seeing the world to emerge."
Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas & Liz Park
"Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas is a renowned Haida artist who, gradually, during a thirty-year career as a political activist, began to apply classic Haida visual forms and narratives to contemporary means of communications, including political cartoons and comics...
Old Growth chronicles over thirty years of Yahgulanaas' graphic works that document the history of political negotiations and cultural conflict off the Northwest Coast of Canada from the 1970s to the early 2000s. Containing studies and experiments, finished work previously unpublished, and works that few have seen, this book reflects on such urgent topics as depletion of natural resources, global climate change and the fundamental question of 'how to live together'."