Based on Yahgulanaas' Haida Manga, Carpe Fin, inspired by Haida oral narratives, this exhibition aims to relay themes of reciprocity, food sovereignty, and spirituality. The feature of this case is a multi-panelled graphic accordion with pages from Carpe Fin. In the center is the face of Lord Rock, framed by pages that communicate the central themes. Yahgulanaas explores liminal spaces through framelines; this exhibit highlights those spaces by drawing attention to them through texture, depth, and negative space.
While viewing The Space Between, we invite you to reflect on what connects us.
“I wanted to create this graphic interpretation of old narratives — and not just old narratives — but maybe get down to some of the messages embedded in these old narratives and parables, and I want to extract them and compare them to the stories we need to hear in the living moment.”
Carpe Fin, 2018. Panels showing the Carpe Fin artwork as a mural before it was published as a book.
Carpe Fin translates from Latin to "Seize the End." It is a title that plays both on "carpe diem" and the use of "fin" to finish comics. However, the narrative of Carpe Fin establishes that story and life are not linear. Endings become beginnings, and the space between is a sea of possibility.
To feed his community after an industrial disaster, Carpe hunts and kills a sea lion. Here, the realms of animal, human, and spirit blend. His actions pull him into the supernatural as he is brought before Lord Rock. In this liminal space, Carpe begins to find the answers he needs to save those he cares for.
The ocean is where life begins and ends. In many Haida narratives, the ocean is where souls are taken and face trials to re-enter the land of the living. Carpe is tested when the ocean pulls him through a transformation that reconnects him with his purpose.
Yahgulanaas plays with the space between in Carpe Fin. As a prequel to Red, yet set in the near future, it explores nonlinear time and space. He does this thematically through Carpe's exploration of the realms of spirits as well as visually through Yahgulanaas' signature framelines that carve through the pages.
“What happens when you go too far too fast? You disappear, you become invisible".
Lord of the Rock
"Art is not a Noun, it's a Verb."
The work was initially commissioned by the Seattle Art Gallery and contained no text; this left the narrative open to the viewer's interpretation. Created in conversation with a Skiid (Headdress Frontlet) crafted in the 19th century by Yahgulanaas' Tsinni, Albert Edenshaw and inspired by oral narratives such as The First Spear, Carpe Fin weaves these together for a contemporary audience. The text added to the work upon publication in its sparse, poetic style remains reminiscent of spoken word and is just as evocative.
Oral narratives shape how the Haida see the world. Yahgulanaas pulls poignant messages from these stories and recontextualizes them visually. In working with an alternative medium, he shows the cyclical and enduring nature of these narratives.
Stories shift, change, and become layered with each telling. It is important in Yahgulanaas’ work that he is not a definitive teller but one interpreter among many.
Michael working on Carpe Fin
Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas
"The ragged edges of the temperate rainforest reach far out onto an island in the western seas. It is a place where one chooses to go ahead or turn back... In a prequel to the award-winning Red: A Haida Manga, acclaimed artist Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas blends Asian manhwa/manga with the Haida artistic and oral tradition in another stunning hand-painted volume. In a small near-future community perched between the ocean and the northern temperate rainforest, a series of disasters is taking a heavy toll. It is early fall and a fuel spill has contaminated the marine foods the village was preparing to harvest. As food supplies dwindle, a small group decides to make a late season expedition to search for sea lions. Surprised by a ferocious storm, they abandon one man, Carpe, on an isolated rock at sea. After ten days they are finally able to return, but he has vanished. The story follows Carpe's encounters with the Lord of the Rock, who demands retribution for Carpe's role in the hunt, and Carpe's fate in the half-life between human and animal, life and death."