June 17, 2008 · Updated 12:12 PM
Pendelton Woolen Mills chose April White, an accomplished artist who has shown work extensively throughout North America, to create one of only eight "Legendary Series" blankets to be produced this year. Pendelton doesn't pick eight artists each year; rather, one artist's blanket is retired from a group of eight, making room for one new artist to be added.
Pendelton's main coordinator, Robert Christnacht, saw the silkscreen print of "Raven Stealing the Moon," the stylized, formline rendering of a bird, beak opened with a moon inside, in April's display at the Indian Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico last August. April, whose Haida name, Sgaana Jaad, translates to "Killer Whale Woman," was born on Haida Gwaii, the Queen Charlotte Islands, off the Western Coast of Canada. Returning to Masset, her home village, April says, "I am really able to re-infuse myself with the power that comes from my Haida culture. When I'm creating art, I experience innate memories that deeply connect me to my cultural past. It's as if not my eyes, but only my brain is really doing the seeing. The feeling of this cerebral vision is supernatural...magical."
Upon her graduation from the University of British Columbia with a degree in geology, she reconnected with painting, and soon the galleries that framed her work wanted to sell it. Making the transition from geologist to artist was aided by her family's artistic and cultural heritage, with its strong ties to the natural world. April's great-great-grandfather was Charles Edenshaw, considered one of the best Haida artists. A carver, he used a type of shale called argillite, a stone soft enough to use woodworking tools on and found only in Haida Gwaii.
Art as it was developed in the Haida Nation was an important part of everyday life; the sculpture and graphic arts were a written record, making visible the social and spiritual worlds. These symbols adorned their architecture and material culture, the functional or ceremonial objects and clothing, which were periodically given away in a ceremony that marked special events called a Potlatch. Formline is the traditional, stylized Haida art form with a highly developed system of principles that guides its use and in which April's family has invested its generations. It graphically renders natural elements in the real world, flattening and rearranging the anatomical elements of animals and humans so that they may be overlaid or juxtaposed in imaginative ways, such as the face of a bear used in the ovoid shape of the eyes of an eagle or salmon.
April has recently created a silkscreen print of a starfish, The San Juan Nature Institute's logo, in the visual terms of formline, using traditional black and red. The limited edition hand-pulled serigraph is to be given to the first 75 ticketed guests to the Institute's 2005 Summer Potlatch Picnic on Saturday, July 23rd.
April and her husband, Farhad Ghatan, own Harrison House Suites, a bed-and-breakfast in Friday Harbor. They met when Farhad, a pilot, was hired to fly a writer up to Powell River to meet with April about a prospective article. Upon his return to the San Juans, he saw an article about Haida First Nation President Gujaaw. Seeing it as a sign, Farhad wrote to April and invited her to come to the San Juans for a visit. They were married a year later in a Haida ceremony in Masset, where she has one of her homes. Another home is located in Powell River, north of Vancouver, where she has a restored 1928 building on Marine Avenue that houses her businesses Wind Spirit Art & Gallery, Wind Spirit Printmakers, and a custom framing shop.
Examples of April's lithographs, giclee prints, serigraphs and watercolors can be seen on her website, www.aprilwhite.com.