‘Enduring Connections: Contemporary Alaskan Yup’ik and Iñupiat Art’ Opening at the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum

Ron “Qay” Apangalook, Compositon, ca. 2000. Whale bone. Robert and MaryLou Sutter Collection. Photo: Luc Demers

Starting March 8, 2018, the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum is pleased to present a new exhibit showcasing art by Alaskan Indigenous artists. Enduring Connections: Contemporary Alaskan Yup’ik and Iñupiat Art features sculptures, baskets, masks, and other works, most from the museum’s permanent collection. “We’re very excited about this exhibit” says curator Genevieve LeMoine. “The museum has been collecting contemporary Alaskan art for a number of years, and periodically we have included Alaskan pieces in other exhibits, but this is the first time we have devoted a whole exhibit to Alaskan works.”

Contemporary Alaskan art has its roots in both indigenous cultural traditions and the dramatic changes Alaskan society has experienced beginning in the mid-nineteenth century. Enduring Connections features some nineteenth century pieces to provide context for the contemporary art. They include rare pencil drawings by Iñupiat hunters from Cape Prince of Wales and an ivory tobacco pipe carved for the growing tourist market.

Artists today often use the same materials as those employed by their ancestors and address many of the same themes. Highlights include spectacular baskets woven from grass and baleen, and wood, whale bone, and caribou skin masks. Some works, such as the baleen baskets and caribou skin masks, are innovations developed in the twentieth century. Others, such as intricate ivory carvings featuring animals and a stunning wooden puffin mask, have direct links to traditional works. Dramatic ivory and whale bone sculptures by two of Alaska’s best known contemporary artists with two distinctly different approaches, Ron “Qay” Apangalook and Susie Silook, round out the exhibit.

To mark the launch of the exhibit, which runs until the end of December, artist Susie Silook will deliver a lecture entitled “Yupik and Iñupiat Art and Activism in Contemporary Alaska” on Thursday, March 8, at 7:00 pm in Kresge Auditorium.

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