Alaskan Natives have a rich and broad tradition of decorative work. The work is very diverse: Yup’ik, Inupiaq, Alutiiq, Aleut, Klingit, and others have long histories of working with available materials from their geographic areas. These materials include (but are not limited to) walrus tusk, seal skin, wood, wool, animal hair, seal and walrus intestines, sinew, porcupine quills, otter fur, baleen, some metals, grasses, vegetal dyes, animal blood, whale bone, antler, caribou leather, and fish skin.
Russian traders, and later western European explorers, brought glass beads and additional metals to natives of Alaska. These additional materials were soon incorporated into the daily life of Native Alaskans, including articles of clothing and hunting. These decorated articles have become, over the past generations, venerated by collectors and anthropologists for their aesthetic excellence, as well as for their originally intended uses.
Todays Alaskan Natives use traditional materials and styles, but incorporate what is currently available to them as global citizens. Commercial paints and dyes, fabrics, canvas, and Japanese beads are commonly used by today’s artists.
We at Home & Away Gallery celebrate the merging of the traditional with the contemporary. While some anthropologists, art critics, and collectors dismiss contemporary art as not “genuinely native”, we understand the great importance of keeping art alive by changing with the times.