Lgheli K'enan (Drum Mask)
25 ½ x 15 ½ x 2 ½ inches
salmon skin, copper
"I sculpted the face for this series using photographs of my male ancestors. I combined their bone structures, features, and sculpted my own profile into the final clay bust.
"My people group is one of the least documented indigenous groups in the world. At first, I found this lack of documentation intimidating as people would try to challenge my views and identity because they did not line up with their perceptions of what a Native Alaskan should be. This pressure helped me to quickly develop my artistic voice and be confident in standing by my work.
"I use nontraditional materials to tell traditional stories that show how people have overcome adversity, or sacrificed to give new life. I love the way traditional masks enable the human body to transform into another entity to tell a story. I also make human forms with animal skins as a reversal of the traditional mask-making method. In these mask and figurative forms I hope to portray myself but allow a large audience to relate personally to the work. When I approach a show, I make a list of emotions and feelings I want to experience when I am in the space. By building such an open-ended creative environment, the viewers are not being told what to experience; rather they are given a starting point for their own trains of thought." —J.I.