Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
June 3, 2000-Issue 11

Greg Colfax, Master Carver

Greg Colfax has been described as an “artist, fisherman, canoe company manager, poet, and philosopher.” He was trained as an educator in creative writing, with degrees from both Western Washington University and the University of Washington. He has taught both in the Native American Studies Program at Evergreen State College and in elementary and high school at Neah Bay. He began his training as a carver in 1978. “I have no formal art training,” he says. “A few individuals have provided me with good advice: Art Thompson, George David, Steve Brown, and Lorne White.”

Two of his pieces were included in the traveling exhibition “Lost and Found Traditions.” Colfax carved a 12-foot figure of a woman drumming for the Native American Studies Program at Evergreen State College, and he also produced a 50-foot carved and painted cedar mural for the Tukwila City Hall. He has researched the collections at the Burke Museum, Royal British Columbia Museum, and the Makah Cultural and Research Center. He consults with Makah elders about the meaning and uses of art objects and utensils. Today he is a master carver in Neah Bay, where he works with apprentices such as Micah Vogel. In addition to his many original carvings, Colfax also restores older pieces.

Colfax also says, “The photo slide collection belonging to Greg Arnold and my own endeavors to collect photo-slides of unpublicized pieces from the back rooms of our country's national museums have provided a look-see of our ancestors’ art. My grandfather no doubt has been the most instrumental person in my life as an artist; he would explain the meaning of what I was carving and when I would show him a carving I would hear a story seemingly disconnected from what I was doing, but after years of thinking I understood his intentions.”

Colfax’s work can been seen, among other places, in the collections of the Burke Museum, University of Washington, Seattle, WA; Microsoft Corporation, Redmond, WA; the University Museum, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA; and the Center for Contemporary Arts, Santa Fe, NM.

In addition to his carving, Colfax serves on the Makah Whaling Commission Board.

Chief Seattle Arts

A Talk with Greg Colfax

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