Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Alaska House, New York; Identity Exhibition

Part One, The Artists at Alaska House in November
The Alaska House in New York is described as "...a new organization and facility, founded as an embassy for all things Alaska, exhibiting art from the Alaska Native Arts Foundation, hosting movies, lectures and events, and otherwise bringing Alaska Natives to SoHo. Alaska House, New York is a newly formed nonprofit arts and cultural center representing the Alaskan point of view. Based in New York City, the organization strives to increase public awareness of the issues and opportunities for this vast and remote 49th state.

What a great idea whose times has come, especially for the artistic and scholarly work being produced by Indigenous people from Alaska.

The exhibition, Identity, features artwork by a handful of prominent Alaska Native artists who address issues of indigenous identity in their artwork, including Erica Lord (Iñupiaq/Athabascan), Susie Bevins Ericsen (Iñupiaq), Larry McNeil (Tlingit/Nishga), Sonya Kelliher-Combs (Iñupiaq/Athabascan), Nicholas Galanin (Tlingit) and Da-ka-xeen Mehner (Tlingit).

I hope that you visit each one of the above links, because this is a very rarefied group of artists who have a very sophisticated set of visual aesthetics, and unique ways of interpreting their various experiences that results in wonderful art that has a powerful resonance and relevance to everyone, not just indigenous people. Each one of these artists has also been very busy with making new art on a regular basis and is exhibiting their art at both national and international museums and galleries. These artists are very passionate about their art-making and it certainly shows in their finished work. What is a bit scary is that many of these artists are also quite young, and already making very mature art. This tells me that they have already experienced a lot of the ironies, injustices and beauty of what life has to offer, and are not shy about making art about what they've learned along the way.

Ok, I've got to fess up and mention that Da-ka-xeen is my sister's son, and to a Tlingit this is very special, because the relationship between an uncle and nephew is a time-honored ancient relationship that often has to do with mentorship. It means that we come from the same House, or in Tlingit we say hít. We come from the Killerwhale Fin House, or Keet Gooshi Hít, from Klukwan, the Northern Chilkat Tlingit. I wish I could claim some credit for his talent and hard work, but if anyone were to claim credit, it would have to be our ancestors who set the standard for both of us to aspire to reach.

This is going to be an amazing exhibition-- see you in New York!


SHI Archivist said...


I enjoyed looking over your blog. I would love to attend the NYC show, but sadly, its a long way from AK. Glad to briefly link along the information highway. Feel free to take a peek at my blog as well. ZJ

Larry McNeil said...

Hello Sealaska Heritage Institute Archivist,

I enjoyed looking at the SHI Special Collections Research Center blog. It'll be great to see an online catalog at some future point (your recent post regarding the research grant).