The Nunamiut people of Anaktuvuk Pass make unique skin masks using a technique they invented, casting wet caribou skins on wooden molds and staining them with raw caribou liver.
The masks, used to tell stories during Christmas week, depict human faces trimmed with the ears, noses and fur of wolf, fox, caribou and lynx.
Among Nunamiut, festive celebrations offer an escape from the rigors of arctic living. “A person would be chosen to put on a mask and act out a story to make people laugh. The first person to laugh takes the next turn,” said artist Lilly Killbear.
The late state soil conservationist Weymeth Long and his wife, Vivian, collected 16 of these masks by Inupiaq artist Jane Rulland Young. Thanks to the family’s generous donation, these masks are among the latest additions to the Anchorage Museum’s permanent collection.
Recent Acquisitions, on view Nov. 16 through Feb. 10, 2013, showcases more than 140 new museum holdings, including paintings, ethnographic objects, photographs, sculptures and historical objects.
The permanent collection typically grows through donations or purchases made possible by grants and the Anchorage Museum Association. Some of the art in this exhibition was purchased via the Rasmuson Foundation
’s Alaska Contemporary Art Acquisitions Program, including works by Perry Eaton, Nicholas Galanin and Linda Infante-Lyons.
Exhibition highlights also include items from the following donated collections:
The founder of Carrs grocery stores, Laurence Carr
, and his wife, Wilma, were longtime museum supporters. Most recently their family donated 23 artworks including two totem poles made by Tommy Joseph and paintings by Sydney Laurence, Eustace Ziegler and Fred Machetanz.
Hugh Ferguson, founder of the Hugh and Jane Ferguson Foundation
in Seattle, developed a strong connection to Alaska while stationed in the Aleutian Islands during World War II. He collected Alaska and Northwest Coast art and after he died in 2011, the Anchorage Museum received eight of his Sydney Laurence paintings.
H.W. Nagley III’s father was one of the Anchorage Museum’s founders, and his son continues to be a strong museum advocate. Among their contributions, the family has established two conservation endowments. Recently Nagley III donated 12 Kivetoruk Moses drawings collected by his father.