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Friday, May 20, 2011

The Art of Nicholas Galanin

Raven and First Immigrant, 2009.
Photo courtesy of Wayne Leidenfrost/Vancouver Sun.

Nicholas Galanin is most recently famous for the art work he did this past March for Boekenweek, the annual Dutch literature event.  But the artist is well-known for making modern art pieces with a traditional twist.

Curriculum Vitae - written portraits of Anne Frank, Vincent
van Gogh, Kader Abdolah, and Louis van Gaal,
for Boekenweek, 2011.  Images courtesy of CPNB.

Born in Sitka, Alaska, he comes from a background of artisans.  His great-grandfather was a wood sculptor.  His father works in precious metal and stone. When he was young he apprenticed with his father and uncle, then other local traditional artists.

Four Seasons, hand engraved copper pillar,
showing spring and winter.
Same pillar showing fall and summer.

Deciding to pursue a formal education, he studied at London Guildhall University from 2000-2003.  Although he graduated with a B.F.A. with honors in jewelry design and silversmithing, he did more modern art work on the side.

Inert, 2009, photo courtesy Wayne Leidenfrost/Vancouver Sun.

Looking for a place he could develop as an artist more creatively with less rigid training, he attended Massey University in New Zealand.  He graduated there with an M.A. in Indigenous Visual Arts.

The Imaginery Indian:  yéil, 2008.
Photo courtesy Wayne Leidenfrost/Vancouver Sun.

Eventually, he moved back to Sitka.  Trained in both traditional as well as contemporary approaches to art, he blends them together.  His work reveals his cultural background and his exploratory nature.  His art is political in the sense that he mocks how native cultures are adopted and adapted into preconceived notions. He cleverly employs traditional cultural themes in ways and mediums that reflect their appropriation by the mainstream.

The Good Book Vol. 15, 2006.
1000 pages containing text from the Holy Bible with human hair.

With such an impressive oeuvre of a wide variety of themes and techniques, his popularity is understandable.  One can only contemplate what he will create next....

S'igeika'awu:  Ghost, 2009.
The Imaginary Indian Series, 2009.
The artist claims "a modern skeletal ruin of ghost like
objects hang on gallery and collection walls, most of
which mimic a romantic cultural lifestyle."
Engraved copper bracelet, 2004.
Knowledge, 2008, 2500 pages of cut and bound paper.  Pages from
Under Mount Elias:  The History and Culture of the Yakutat Tlingit
Parts one, Two, and Three by Frederica de Laguna.
What Have We Become? Vol. 3, 2006, 1000 pages.
Unless otherwise noted, images courtesy of 
the artist's website.

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