Icons of Life: Alaska displays varieties of art

The actress in a bear mask strutted, slinked and channeled the voice of a gloomy polar bear, rapping, "Oh-woe, where did all the ice go?" as the mingling throng nibbled on hors d'oeuvres, sipped wine and hobnobbed with the some of the best-known artists in Alaska.

“INSPIRATION,” an invitational group show of Alaska Native Art will remain on display through Nov. 14 at MTS Gallery, 3142 Mountain View Drive. A second “First Friday” reception with at least some of the artists, curator Ronald Senungetuk, award-winning poet Joan Kane (“The Cormorant Hunter’s Wife) and performance artist Allison Warden (aka “Aku-Matu”) will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday.

The Auxiliary’s Craft Shop at the Alaska Native Medical Center has long been a must-see for visitors looking for Native Alaska arts and crafts. On Friday the shop will join the “First Friday” circuit for the first time ever, with a reception at 5:30 p.m. In addition to seeing new work, visitors can take a look at the wealth of “Percent for Art” installations drawn from the shop’s stores over the years. Master artists on hand will include Teddy Mayac, Ron Apangalook and Daisy Demientieff. The medical complex is located at 4315 Diplomacy Circle.

A distinctly different pulse accompanied opening night at the art show now on display at the MTS Gallery in Mountain View. For those who missed it -- no worries. It all happens again (complete with the hors d'oeuvres and Allison Warden's ursine hip-hop performance) as part of the regular round of First Friday art events Friday.

And this time curator Ronald Senungetuk will address the crowd along with Joan Kane, arguably the state's most prominent new poet.

But art shows are, after all, about what you see. And this exhibit has a lot to recommend it.

"Inspiration" is an invitational group show of work by Alaska Native artists, both "well-known and emerging members who are introducing new ideas," said Senungetuk in his curator's statement. "Their interpretations provide a continuum in art that states who we are and expresses our way of blending with the Western way of thinking and doing art."

That continuum stretches from traditional forms -- masks by Sven Haakenson, a tiny baleen basket by Mary Jane Litchard, a wooden bowl and spoon set by Jim Miller -- to mixed media and avant-garde pieces using such decidedly non-traditional materials as metal car parts and neon gas.

The show originated at the Pratt Museum in Homer. It's at MTS through Nov. 14 as part of Alaska Native American Indian Heritage Month.

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