Contemporary Alaskan Yup'ik and Inupiat Art
The Peary-Macmillan Arctic Museum welcomes a contemporary collection of Alaskan Yup’ik and Inupiat art.
Bowdoin College’s Peary–MacMillan Arctic Museum presents “Enduring Connections: Contemporary Alaskan Yup’ik and Iñupiat Art,” an exhibition showcasing sculptures, baskets, masks, and other works by indigenous Alaskan artists. Of the various featured works are baskets woven from grass and baleen (the keratin filter feeder system inside a whale’s mouth) and masks made from wood, whalebone, and caribou skin. The artworks within the exhibition are from different historical eras. Some pieces in the collection date back to the nineteenth century, such as rare pencil drawings by Iñupiat hunters and a carved ivory tobacco pipe. Other works, such as baleen baskets and caribou masks, are twentieth-century innovations, while intricate ivory carvings have direct links to early traditional works and heritage. Today, indigenous Alaskan artists often employ many of the same materials and techniques used by their ancestors.
Other artworks found in the exhibition are dramatic ivory and whalebone sculptures created by two of Alaska’s best known contemporary artists: Ron “Qay” Apangalook and Susie Silook. While their approaches are distinctly different from one another, their sculptures round out the exhibition. Contemporary Alaskan art is rooted in indigenous cultural tradition and shaped by the dramatic changes seen in Alaskan society since the beginning of the mid-nineteenth century. Many forms of contemporary Alaskan art began with the arrival of Europeans—Alaskan artisans began creating souvenirs for explorers and the crews of whaling ships.
“Enduring Connections: Contemporary Alaskan Yup’ik and Iñupiat Art” opened in March and will run until December. It is the Peary–MacMillan Arctic Museum’s first exhibition dedicated solely to Alaskan artists and their works, and it is free and open to the public. The Peary–MacMillan Arctic Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Maine Home+Design gives a preview of the exhibition on the following pages.