Golden Art City: Decolonizing Alaska

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska - For this week's Golden Art City, Amanda Brennan discusses the curator and objects behind the visiting exhibit, "Decolonizing Alaska."
From the Bering expedition that brought the first Europeans to Alaska to current corporate and government institutions vying for the state's natural resources, the colonization of Alaska has had a significant impact on its indigenous people. Curator, Asia Freeman from the Bunnell Street Arts Center in Homer is trying to shed light on Alaska's history and hope for its future.
Asia Freeman; Curator, Bunnell Street Arts Center>>: "There was this interesting emergence that had to do with themes, materials, and stories that I would say are embedded in these objects, these objects which will outlive all of us, these objects that artists make, starting to tell stories about trauma, truth related to loss of land, climate change, resource extraction and the control around identity and culture that began with colonization, with first contact."
Located in the University of Alaska Museum of the North's Special Exhibits Gallery, the travelling exhibit called, "Decolonizing Alaska" is a collection of 30 objects challenging the cultural identities and traditions of both Native and non-Native Alaskans. Lifelong Homer resident, Freeman says her mother was integral in shaping her idea of colonization.
Asia Freeman; Curator, Bunnell Street Arts Center>>: "When I was a child my mother was a radio producer. She received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to fly all around Alaska and interview Alaska Natives speaking about the transition that the people had undergone basically in the last fifty years of colonization in Alaska."
Some recurring themes in the objects are a juxtaposition of traditional and modern objects, technology, as well as breaking out of cultural norms.
Asia Freeman; Curator, Bunnell Street Arts Center>>: The work of Linda Lyon for example, she is portraying her grandmother, and her grandmother is on what looks like a Russian icon, so it looks like a painting from the Orthodox tradition like a Madonna, but this Madonna is a dark skinned woman and instead of a Christ child, she is holding a little seal to speak to the origin of life."
The objects even go so far as to challenge how Native Alaskan culture is displayed in museums.
Asia Freeman; Curator, Bunnell Street Arts Center>>: An indigenous woman, Jackie's inside a diorama which is inside the Anchorage museum and she is inside this diorama that depicts one of Alaska's many indigenous cultures and then reflected on the glass in the distance you see Michael Conti, the photographer."
Thirty artists of diverse heritages have converged to challenge traditional and western stereotypes of Native Alaskans since the late 1700's. It is through their objects that Freeman feels healing from colonization can begin.
Asia Freeman; Curator, Bunnell Street Arts Center>>: "Maybe this is one place where that deeper work to heal and survive is actually happening."
"Decolonizing Alaska" opened February 10th, and will be on display until September. For this week's Golden Art City, this is Amanda Brennan.