Brian Tripp (Karuk) was born in 1945 in Eureka and
graduated from Del Norte County High School in Crescent City. A traditional
dancer and singer, he is actively involved in the ceremonies of northwest
California and is deeply committed to Native American sovereignty and
to the struggle this involves.
Tripp grew up near the Klamath River. His dad, a logger, was killed in a logging accident in 1962. When he was drafted into the army in 1965, Tripp was following in his father’s footsteps, working in a mill, but after he came back from Vietnam, he became more interested in his own culture. “I learned how things really were when I was in the army…I was a finance clerk…never had to fight, but when I came home I got more involved in my culture.” Seeing the horrors of the Vietnam War helped him understand what his own people had gone through.
As an art student at Humboldt State University from 1970-1976, Tripp
studies printmaking, drawing, design, and calligraphy, but after he
left school he didn’t have a studio or the same kind of equipment available
to him. He began to experiment with different, looser drawing styles,
tried to develop more personal imagery, still relying on the symbols
and designs from his Karuk culture as the foundation for his art. “I
never could do perfect realistic drawing,” he admits.
"I do the geometric thing because it’s what we do—it’s Indian.
All the wood sculptures are things I see in the woods. The faces are
just right there: all you have to do is look at them. "
Most of the wood and stones for Tripp’s sculptures and mixed media comes from the mouth of the Klamath River. Because it’s a two or three mile walk to the source, Tripp chooses carefully the pieces that “talk” to him and carries them out in a sack. He has piles and piles of special pieces of wood and stones in his home studio, waiting to be transformed in a living sculpture. Tripp has taught art at Humboldt State University and has been an artist-in-residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts, Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Tripp’s work has been exhibited widely, especially in northern California, and has also been shown in Texas, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and New Mexico.
"Through my body flows blood of singers and dancers, makers
of dance regalia, carvers and basket makers, gatherers, hunters, and
fishermen, all believers in the traditional religion and the old way.
I know I am these people and I have done all those things before, many,
many, years ago. "
-biographical profile adapted from Marilyn Moyle (Davis Enterprise)
-artists statements form Brian D. Tripp, Johnson, Roth and Tani,
eds. (Visibility Press, 1992)