With last week's publication of Sarah Palin's new book, Going Rogue
, Alaska is once again in the headlines, so it's easy to forget that there's far more to our 49th state than its red-suited former governor. I've been working on a book project in the Bering Strait of Alaska sporadically for the past few years -- above is a photo from Shishmaref, Alaska. These are places where you really can
see Russia. And while these locales aren't much for luxury in the traditional sense, they are the places where simply astonishing Alaska Native art is produced -- where artists utilize the landscape to create everything from delicately carved bracelets to bold mobiles, traditional masks to photographs, amber-jewel like kayaks to paintings.
Alaska's natural resources aren't just used for art, of course -- many Native Alaskans still live at least partially off the land and sea. In part, this is to preserve a traditional way of life, but it's also because the price of basic necessities is so high
: a dozen eggs can cost as much as $22. In addition to the challenges of preserving tradition that are faced by native communities everywhere, the raw materials of life are in jeopardy because of global warming. This is the part of the United States that is the most dramatically affected by climate change: The state's wintertime climate has warmed by 40 degrees since 1950, sea ice has thinned by 60 percent since the 1960s.
Nine Native Alaskan artists have produced works in response to this fraught landscape, which opens at the Alaska House New York
gallery in Soho on December 10th. Working in a variety of media, ranging from mask-making, to skin sewing, to photography, Brian Adams, Susie Bevins, Perry Eaton, Nicholas Galanin, Anna Hoover, Sonya Kelliher-Combs, Erica Lord, Da-ka-xeen Mehner, and Larry McNeil create works that capture this particularly delicate moment for Alaska -- and works that are certainly highly collectible. Check out the preview below to get just a sample of this extraordinary art.
If Dry Ice inspires you to travel to the places where these works are created, Alaska House New York (which is as much of an "embassy" for Alaska as it is an art gallery) has many resources
to guide you through the parts of the state that you're unlikely to see on your own. And if you're more of an armchair traveler, check out this thoughtfully curated selection of books about Alaska
-- a good place to start is 50 Miles from Tomorrow
, by William L. Iggiagruk Hensley. You'll also find a list of online resources, including the very entertaining online newspaper, Alaska Dispatch