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Museum exhibit highlights contemporary Alaska Native art

Submitted by Kerynn Fisher
Phone: (907) 474-6941


Photo caption below.
UAF photo by Barry McWayne
Da-Ka-Xeen Mehner's Double-Headed Dagger, one of the works in the UA Museum of the North special exhibit "On the Edge: Forging New Directions in Alaska Native Art." The exhibit runs Saturday, May 12 through Sunday, September 30.
FAIRBANKS, Alaska - A new special exhibit at the University of Alaska Museum of the North features the work of 23 Alaska Native artists who honor their cultural heritage with works that diverge from traditional expressions. "On the Edge: Forging New Directions in Contemporary Alaska Native Art "opens Saturday, May 12 and runs through Sunday, Sept. 30 in the museum's Special Exhibits Gallery.

"The artists featured in this exhibit draw on their cultural traditions, but incorporate very innovative elements or expressions in their work," says museum director Aldona Jonaitis. "These artists go beyond and outside their traditions in many ways."

Some of the works feature media not traditionally used in Alaska Native art: a glass bowl by Preston Singletary inspired by a broad-brimmed Tlingit hat, a dagger made by Da-ka-xeen Mehner using a steel I-beam, a mask carved by Nicholas Galanin from the pages of a book and photographs by Larry McNeil. Others use traditional media, like beads, fur and whalebone, but in unusual forms, like Rose Kanrilak's mermaid dolls, Tanis Maria S'eiltin's handbags and Bobby Nashookpuk's whalebone sculpture. Collectively, the works reflect on cultural traditions and cultural identity. Many of the artists also use their work as a means of expressing the experience of an Alaska Native artist in today's world.

The exhibit also features works in a variety of media by Jack Abraham, Larry Ahvakana, Alvin Amason, Lena Amason, Earl Atchak, Sylvester Ayek, Paula Rasmus Dede, John Hoover, Sonya Kelliher-Combs, Kathleen Carlo Kendall, James Schoppert, Joseph Senungetuk, Ron Senungetuk, Susie Silook, Glen Simpson and Denise Wallace.

"We hope this exhibit gives our visitors an appreciation for the wealth of artistic talent in Alaska today and an introduction to contemporary Alaska Native art in Alaska," says Jonaitis. She adds that visitors can see other examples of Alaska Native art, both contemporary and traditional, in the museum's Rose Berry Alaska Art Gallery.

"On the Edge: Forging New Directions in Contemporary Alaska Native Art" is funded, in part, by the City of Fairbanks Hotel-Motel Tax Fund, regrant from the Fairbanks Arts Association and by contributors to the Museum Exhibition Enhancement Fund. In addition to works from the museum's permanent collection, the exhibit includes works on loan from Alison Browne, Wanda Chin, Paula Rasmus Dede, Keith Gianni, Home & Away Gallery, Barry McWayne, Da-Ka-Xeen Mehner, David Mollett, Tanis Maria S'eiltin, Glen Simpson and Jerry Williams.

Admission to the special exhibit is included in the museum's general admission price: $10 for adults, $9 for seniors, $5 for youth 7-17 and free for children 6 and under. Museum members and UAF students (with valid ID) also receive free admission. The museum will offer free admission to visitors participating in the International Museum Day tour of local museums, which runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 19.

The museum's spring hours continue through Monday, May 14: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and noon to 5 p.m. weekends. From Tuesday, May 15 through Saturday, Sept. 15, the museum will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Information on the museum's programs and exhibits is available at (907) 474-7505 and online at www.uaf.edu/museum.

CONTACT: Kerynn Fisher, communications coordinator, University of Alaska Museum of the North, at (907) 474-6941 or k.fisher@uaf.edu.

Note to editors: Images are available on request.