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Looking North Art from the University of Alaska Museum

by Aldona Jonaitis

  • ISBN: 9780295976938
  • ISBN10: 0295976934

Looking North Art from the University of Alaska Museum

by Aldona Jonaitis

  • List Price: $60.00
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Univ of Washington Pr
  • Publish date: 07/01/1998
  • ISBN: 9780295976938
  • ISBN10: 0295976934
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Description: The University of Alaska Museum's collection of Alaskan art ranges from two-thousand-year-old ivory carvings to paintings done in the 1990s. Looking North presents 138 of the Museum's most treasured works from the archaeology, ethnology, and fine arts collections. Among them are ancient artifacts as well as 19th- and 20th-century artworks by Athabaskan, Aleut, Yupik, Inupiat, Haida, Tlingit, and other Alaska Natives. Historical painting is represented by the canvases of well-known artists such as Sydney Laurence, Rockwell Kent, and Henry Wood Elliott. Works by George Aghupuk and Florence Malewotkuk are among the Eskimo drawings and watercolors included. Images by James H. Barker and others present Alaska through photographs.

Color illustrations of the artworks are accompanied by a lively dialogue among ten experts (both Native and non-Native) including artists, university faculty, and museum staff. Their conversation ranges from detailed discussion of the manufacture, style, and significance of particular works to theoretical musings on the museum experience, "ethnic" art, and the many meanings of Alaska to different artists and audiences. Poems by Peggy Shumaker provide a verbal counterpoint to the visual art.

Alaska's striking landscape provided both the necessity and the materials for creating traditional Native crafts, such as elaborately decorated footwear and clothing to protect against the elements, baskets to hold the fruits of the environment, and masks to represent and interact with the spirit world. It also has served as the awe-inspiring subject for innumerable works by Euro-American visitors and settlers -- a subject that in recent years has come to be seen as notisolated and remote, but instead a place long inhabited and shaped by people.

The state's first human residents both created much of what we think of as Alaskan art and became the subjects of art by newcomers. The simplistic designation of their "traditional" culture as authentic and of acculturation as inauthentic is now being challenged, as is the devaluing of Native art manufactured for the tourist trade -- birchbark baskets, ivory carvings, and dolls. These themes resurface throughout the dialogue, providing frames for viewing a vast array of visually compelling and culturally rich artworks.

While showcasing many of the museum's highlights, Looking North also engages the reader intellectually, challenging him or her to abandon the customary pigeonholes of ethnography and fine art, and to see each piece from multiple perspectives.

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