Killer Whale, 1982

James Jordan
(American | Cherokee | Comanche, born 1945)

Location: Department of Transportation Ferry: Issaquah, Seattle


Artist James Jordan created Killer Whale for the MV Issaquah, a Washington State Ferry. Many elements of the artwork are based on traditions from the Indigenous Northwest Coast peoples. The painted whale figure is based on traditional curved and ovoid formline designs. The cedar boards were hand-carved with an adze, in the style of Northwest Coast carvings. Jordan notes that the artwork's subject matter is from Northwest Coast oral history: "the legend of Gunahr whose wife was kidnapped and taken to the undersea kingdom. In this design, Gunahr is portrayed riding to her rescue on the back of a killer whale…note his face in the dorsal fin and his hand holding on to the side of the whale as it dives."

This artwork was acquired for the State Art Collection in partnership with Department of Transportation.


Oregon-based artist James Jordan creates distinctive and original artworks influenced by the artistic traditions of the Northwest Coastal tribes. He was born in Longview, Southwestern Washington, and attended Lower Columbia College (in Longview) before graduating from the American School of Photography. Of Cherokee and Comanche heritage, he considers himself a student of the art and traditions of the Northwest Coast. He states that he "prefers not to copy but to create" a distinctive style of his own.

MediumCarved and painted cedar panel
Dimensions3 ft x 4 ft
ID NumberWSAC1981.039.002
Acquisition MethodSite responsive commission
Artist LocationOregon, United States
Location Information
AgencyDepartment of Transportation - Ferries
Artwork LocationDepartment of Transportation Ferry: Issaquah
Main cabin #2 end, starboard
WA CountyKing
Site TypeState Agency
Address2901 Third Ave, Suite 500
Seattle, WA 98121
Geo. Coordinates47.618023 | -122.351622
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