Subtly Subverting Dominant Narratives: Alison Marks
Traditional forms yield fresh insights when juxtaposed with Western materials
January 15, 2019
Alaska artist Alison Marks challenges assumptions and expectations about Tlingit art through artwork that tackles cultural appropriation with subversive humor and reimagines traditional Tlingit themes using contemporary materials. Her artworks will be on view at the Anchorage Museum Feb. 1 through April 14, 2019, in the exhibition Alison Marks: Decaf/Regular.
The pieces in this exhibition span a variety of media, including painting, carving, digital collage and regalia. Marks blends formline – the two-dimensional design style used by the peoples of the Northwest Coast – with nontraditional materials and techniques, including commercial and digital imagery, as a means to engage with a constantly evolving cultural landscape.
Several works in the exhibition play on the influence of social media. Her Emoji series blends formline design with emojis in a commentary on how images of Tlingit self-representation, once an ancient, labor-intensive visual language, have become procurable symbols chosen with the tap of a finger.
One of Marks’s intentions is to subtly subvert the narratives of a patriarchal Western tradition, which often exoticizes Native identity and women. Through her work she seeks to reflect on the contemporary Tlingit experience and how indigenous identity is shaped by, and expressed through, Western culture.
About the Artist
Alison Marks was born and raised in Southeast Alaska. Marks is the first Tlingit woman to carve and raise a totem pole. In addition to her contemporary art practice, she is committed to the revitalization of the Tlingit language and creating works for traditional and ceremonial use. She studied under master artists David R. Boxley and David A. Boxley in Kingston, Washington. Her work is included in the permanent collections of the Burke Museum, Portland Art Museum, the Frye Art Museum, Château Musée Boulonge-sur-Mer and the British Museum in London.
This exhibition is presented as part of the Patricia B. Wolf Solo Exhibition Series with support from the Alaska State Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Anchorage Museum Foundation Alaska Airlines Silver Anniversary Fund.
See more upcoming exhibitions.
Pictured: (top to bottom) BearEmoji, 2017; Decaf/Regular, 2108; ’Wat’sa with a Pearl Earring, 2014