June 24 – August 30


The Jensen Arctic Museum brings “Faces of the Arctic” to the Western Oregon University’s Hamersly Library.  The exhibited items range in time from a whale bone mask from the 1700s to computer enhanced photographic portraits of Alaska natives from 2002.

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This exhibit features many of the masks from the museum’s collections along with other masks and photographs by contemporary Alaskan Native artists. There will be both two-and three-dimensional representations of the human face.


arctic25Images of Power The human face holds a fascination for most artists, whether they are painters, photographers, or sculptors. For the Inupiak and the Yupik, native Alaskans, the face was a powerful image. An animal showed his spirit to the hunter as a human face. A face carved with exaggerated features could be used to scare away unwelcome beings. A small face might be used as an amulet to draw power for healing or hunting.

Images of Memory For visitors to the arctic33Arctic, the faces of Alaska Native inhabitants are windows to another culture. Early photographers wanted to capture images that would appeal to the imagination of the armchair travelers back home. Later, those who came to teach or to work in Alaska wished to remember people who came to be friends.

Images of Economy The Canadian government started programs in the late 1950’s to create opportunities for artists to sell their work. These programs were intended to take the place of the collapsed world market for furs. The soapstone carvings of the Inuit artists are well known and sought after by collectors worldwide. At Keewatin an additional program was begun in 1963 to encourage sculptors to use local clay for their work. The soapstone and clay heads show a wide variety of expression of the human face.

Images of the Future For modern artists, both Native and non-native, the human face is still a major subject of interest. Whether visiting the age-old skills of carving or the computer enhancement of the digital age, these artists continue to honor the people of the Alaskan Arctic.












Other highlights include soapstone and clay heads from Rankin Inlet, Canada, old ivory faces that may have been used for dolls or for hunting amulets, and masks used for dancing. A special feature by photographer George Sabo combines landscapes with images of local residents of all ages. Other photographs and paintings will also be included that span the period from the Nome gold rush, circa 1898, through the 1980s.

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Location:  3rd floor galleries
Curator: Marianna Mace