PORT GAMBLE, Wash. — There's Black Panther and the Daredevil. Thor and Doctor Strange. All teaming up to take on an alien invasion. No, this isn't a movie. It's a huge mural that is drawing visitors to a museum in New York City.
We met Jeffrey Veregge on the day he got the color proofs for the mural he created for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. It’s a smaller version of the 50-foot wide work of art which mixes Native American motifs –even S’Klallam words—with Marvel superheroes. Veregge unrolled each image, taping them together. He knew exactly who to share them with first: the people he has known all his life on the Port Gamble S’Klallam reservation.
“I say I'm a storyteller,” Veregge tells us. “I am doing the same thing my ancestors did hundreds of years ago. Many ancestors.”
This reservation is where it all began for Veregge, a boy who loved Star Trek. Now one of the most sought-after artists in the world of comic books.
“I'm talking about gods,” he says. “I'm just doing it with characters we know that we grew up with. The native element is just my telling the story.”
What sets Veregge's work apart is his use of formline. Instantly recognizable here in the Northwest, the indigenous art form dates back thousands of years. It can be found all over the reservation in paintings, carved on totem poles and on a huge mural outside the reservation school.
“Yeah crescents within the ovoids,” Veregghe points out. “I use those.”
Even from the start, as a teenager taking his first lessons at the canoe shed, Veregge couldn't stick to traditional art.
“I never could follow the rules whenever I did art,” he says. “I always wanted to do some kind of twist on it.”
With a degree in industrial design from the Art Institute of Seattle, Veregge set aside what he learned at the reservation so he could design action figures.
“An artist goes his whole life trying to figure out who they are,” he says.
It was only after studying with a master of formline that Veregge found his way. Learning the rules and how to break them. That capes could be made to look like feathers; superheroes created using ovoids, split U’s and crescents.
Jeffrey Veregge is giving new life to gods and heroes and keep an old art form in the public eye.
“I get to work on worlds that I loved as a kid and I get to create my own versions of that,” Veregge says. “That's something that every artist that has ever been a fan of something dreams about, adding to these legacies, and I get to do that.”