Mischief Making: Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, Art, and the Seriousness of Play

  • October 15, 2021

By Nicola Levell; Foreword by Nobuhiro Kishigami

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.

Available in paperback and PDF directly from UBC Press

Editorial Reviews

"Yahgulanaas' work is meticulously analyzed by Levell to expose deeper levels of motivation in the work of one of the most consistently inventive contemporary Indigenous artists working in the world today." - Stuart Derdeyn, Vancouver Sun

"Exuberant and playful, Yahgulanaas's art nonetheless has a serious underpinning and he has a long history of environmental and political activism." - BC Book World

"This is an exciting journey through the refreshing life’s work of one of Canada’s foremost Indigenous artists. Learning from Nicola Levell’s insightful analysis opens the eyes to a wondrous world beyond stale and superseded categories of ‘tradition’, ‘Western’ and ‘Indigenous’! Highly recommended!" - Arnd Schneider, professor, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Oslo

"The Northwest Coast dances with the East and 8.5 tons of stainless steel/copper/marble, then strides to Emma Lake. A comprehensive look at the work of Yahgulanaas – we witness in text, he is doing what he can – just like the hummingbird." - Dana Claxton (Lakota), artist, professor and department head of Art History, Visual Art and Theory, University of British Columbia