Spring 2017


Renowned Native Artist George Blake Receives Honorary Degree

Artist George Blake (second from left) and HSU President Lisa Rossbacher, with Javier I. Kinney (far left) and his wife Ericka, following Blake’s  honorary degree ceremony. Blake is the Hupa-Yurok artist behind Sacrifice II (below), a ghost print.

“IT’S MY FINEST WORK,” says George Blake as he stands next to his ghost print “Sacrifice II.” The Hupa-Yurok artist is overseeing Art students in HSU’s Goudi’ni Gallery as they pack away pieces from his show, “George Blake: A Retrospective.”

Blake, who joined the ranks of HSU honorary degree recipients in October, is describing a gorgeous print that is both a technical anomaly and an aesthetic wonder. The print is actually the second made from an inking process that went awry. The first, Blake says, turned out like peanut butter. While it is possible to get a second print—called a ghost print—from the same inking, the results are almost always inferior. In Blake’s case, the ghost print is, to his eye, near perfection.

Blake describes the print as a visual interpretation of the abrupt ending to a pregnancy, adding resonance to the idea that the first print had to be given up so the second could appear. “Sometimes the little guy has to sacrifice himself so we can have better lives.”

Blake describes his pieces on display at Goudi’ni with vigor and fond memories of the moments connected with each piece. Sometimes the memory reached back to his earliest experiences making ceremonial artwork with his aunt and uncle, or a statement he wanted to make about contemporary perceptions of American Indians. Blake shared even more insight into his work during a campus ceremony in recognition of his honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, conferred by the California State University and Humboldt State University. Blake was nominated by CSU Trustee Hugo N. Morales, who cited Blake’s role in the resurgence of Native California traditional cultural life since the 1970s.

Born in 1944 on the Hoopa Indian Reservation in Humboldt County, Blake is widely known for his sculpture, jewelry, regalia, and contemporary works, and as one of the few living people versed in the traditional art of dugout canoe construction.

“We are honored to bestow a doctorate of Humane Letters upon George Blake. Through his traditional and contemporary work, George reminds us of the power of art to build connections across time and place,” said Humboldt State President Lisa Rossbacher upon announcing the degree.

Blake’s work has been exhibited internationally, and resides in the collections of major institutions like the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum at University of California, Berkeley and the Gene Autry Museum of the American West. In 1991, Blake was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship, the highest national honor given to a traditional artist.

HSU’s Honorary Doctorates

2014, Hermann Spetzler (‘87)
Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters

2012, Robert N. Klein
Honorary Doctor of Laws

2008, Cheryl A. Seidner
Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters

*2008, Michael R. Fielding (’57, ’63) *
Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters

1998, Monica P. Hadley
Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters

*1995, Gwynna M. Morris *
Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters

1995, Fred. B. Galbreath
Honorary Doctor of Letters

1994, Louis W. Schatz
Honorary Doctor of Science

1985, Homer P. Balabanis
Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts