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.
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.
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
of Memory For visitors to the Arctic, 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.
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.
by Niki Schmaltz.
LOCATION: 2nd and 3rd floor
Curator: Marianna Mace, curator emeritus of the Jensen Arctic Museum
page was modified
August 4, 2008