From Wikipedia: Aleut People:

Traditional arts of the Aleuts include hunting, weapon-making, building of baidarkas (special hunting boats), weaving, figurine making, clothing, carving, and mask making. Ivory and woodcarving were and are prevalent crafts for Aleut men to create, too. 19th century craftsmen were famed for their ornate wooden hunting hats, which feature elaborate and colorful designs and may be trimmed with sea lion whiskers, feathers, and ivory. Andrew Gronholdt of the Shumagin Islands played a vital role in reviving the ancient art of building the chaguda-x or traditional bentwood hats. Aleut seamstresses created finely stitched waterproof parkas from seal gut, and some women still master the skill of weaving fine baskets from dune wildrye grass or Elymus mollis. Aleut arts are still very much alive today and are practiced and taught throughout the state of Alaska. Many Aleuts now live across the state and not only in the Aleutians which has helped to spread the arts of their people and to better develop methods of creating their arts. Many old methods had been lost during the periods of European contact.

Aleut carvings are distinct in each region and have attracted traders for centuries. Including early European traders and other Native Alaskan cultures. Historically carving was a male art and leadership attribute; in today’s world it is an art of both sexes. Most commonly the carvings of ivory and wood were for the purpose of hunting weapons. Other times the carvings were created to depict commonly seen animals, such as: seals, whales, and even humans.

The Aleuts use ivory in many other types of carvings. Jewelry is one of the most prominent, accompanied by sewing needles. Jewelry of the Aleuts is also specific to which region it hails from. Each clan would have a specific style to signify their origin. The ornaments used as jewelry consisted of: Lip piercings, nose piercings, necklaces, ear piercings, and piercings through the flesh under the bottom lip. Sewing needles were special to the sewer and were custom made, often with a detailed end that had animal heads.

Aleut basketry is some of the finest in the world, and the tradition began in prehistoric times.The main method of basketry used by the Aleuts was false embroidery (overlay). In this method strands are overlaid upon the basic weaving surface to obtain a plastic effect. Basketry was an art reserved for women. Early Aleut women created baskets and woven mats of exceptional technical quality using only an elongated and sharpened thumbnail as a tool. Today, Aleut weavers continue to produce woven grass pieces of a remarkable cloth-like texture, works of modern art with roots in ancient tradition.Birch bark, puffin feathers, and baleen are also commonly used by the Aleuts in basketry. The Aleut term for grass basket is qiigam aygaaxsii. One Aleut leader recognized by the State of Alaska for her work in teaching and reviving Aleut basketry was Anfesia Shapsnikoff whose life and accomplishments are portrayed in "Moments Rightly Placed."

Masks are full of meaning in the Aleut culture. For instance, the Atka people believed that another people lived in their land before them. These people are displayed through the masks created by the Atka’s. The masks show anthropomorphic creatures that are described in Aleut language. The translation is “like those found in caves” as translated by Knut Bergsland. Masks were generally carved from wood and were decorated with paints made from berries or other earthly products. Feathers were also inserted into holes carved out for extra decoration. These masks were used from ceremonies to dances to praises, each with its own meaning and purpose.

Denise Wallace

Primary Medium(s): 

Denise Hottinger was born in Seattle, Washington in 1957. She attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM in the late 1970s. Denise along with her late husband, Samuel Wallace produced jewelry that is inspired by her Alaskan Native heritage. The couple had a studio/gallery in Santa Fe, NM for over 20 years and moved to the island of Hawaii in 1999. Their work has been the individual focus of many exhibitions, including the traveling exhibition, Arctic Transformations: The Jewelry of Denise and Samuel Wallace organized by the Anchorage Museum of History and Art in Anchorage, AK. Among the public collections that include their work: Anchorage Museum of History and Art,; Institute of American Indian Arts, SF, NM; Museum of Arts and Design, NYC; Mingei International Museum, San Diego, CA.

Personal Statement:
My work is a direct reflection on my home, my ancestors and my connection to the world. Along with my husband, we created work that blends our individual interests and knowledge. We have encouraged our children to find their way along this path of creativity and connections as well.

Nicholas Galanin

Primary Medium(s): 

Culture cannot be contained as it unfolds. My art enters this stream at many different points, looking backwards, looking forwards, generating its own sound and motion. I am inspired by generations of Tlingit creativity and contribute to this wealthy conversation through active curiosity. There is no room in this exploration for the tired prescriptions of the "Indian Art World" and its institutions. Through creating I assert my freedom.

Concepts drive my medium. I draw upon a wide range of indigenous technologies and global materials when exploring an idea. Adaptation and resistance, lies and exaggeration, dreams, memories and poetic views of daily life--these themes recur in my work, taking form through sound, texture, and image. Inert objects spring back to life; kitsch is reclaimed as cultural renewal; dancers merge ritual and rap. I am most comfortable not knowing what form my next idea will take, a boundless creative path of concept-based motion.

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