Kodiak Daily Mirror - Alutiiq Museum to weave past through present in new exhibit
Alutiiq Museum to weave past through present in new exhibit
by Drew Herman
May 08, 2014 | 105 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
An exhibit opening this weekend at the Alutiiq Museum unites hundreds of years of tradition with the work of five contemporary artists.

“Inartalicirpet: Our Weaving Ways” kicks off with a special reception for museum members 6-8 p.m. Saturday. Anyone can become a member at the event. Another public opening is set for noon-3 p.m. on Sunday.

“They can see the weavers demonstrate their work,” museum director Alisha Drabek said.

Attending this weekend will be June Pardue of Sutton, originally from Old Harbor; Coral Chernoff or Kodiak; Vicky Era of Olympia, Wash., originally from the Alaska Peninsula; and Elizabeth Peterson of Anchorage, originally from Kaguyak and Akhiok. The exhibit also features the work of Melissa Berns from Old Harbor. Drabek said a goal of the museum is to promote the art of weaving and encourage youth to continue the tradition. A workshop for people ages 9 to 18 will be offered twice on Saturday, 10 a.m.-noon and 1-3 p.m. where participants will start grass baskets.

“Then they’ll put them in shadowboxes as keepsakes,” Drabek said. “It’s not possible to make a whole basket in two hours.”

Each of the featured artists will have several pieces on display created in the Alutiiq and Unangan (Aleutian) traditions, with materials such as grass, spruce roots, baleen and sinew woven by hand without looms. Articles include baskets, mats, hats, bags and clothing.

The exhibit includes a chart of the two main “chains of knowledge” by which the techniques reached the present. One goes through Old Harbor weaver Fedosia Inga, who passed it on during the 1940s and 1950s, Drabek said. Another lineage centers on Anfesia Shapsnikoff, who taught Unangan basket weaving in Kodiak during the 1980s.

“The Unangan style is much finer,” Drabek said, noting that tradition uses tighter weaves and smaller baskets. “The Alutiiq style favors heavier grasses.”

The neighbor traditions also share techniques, and the knowledge from farther west helped revive the practice in the Kodiak’s Alutiiq area.

Decorations include “false embroidery,” with interwoven yarn or thread, and painting, such as on a spruce root hat created more than a century ago and acquired in 2005 by the Alutiiq Museum in partnership with the Anchorage Museum.

“It’s been in storage and resting, and now we’re excited to have it on display,” Drabek said.

Other relevant pieces, now housed in collections in Russia, will be represented in the exhibit by a photo mural.

Also included in the exhibit is a case with work by other contemporary weavers and one with samples from the Karluk 1 archaeological site dating back about 600 years.

Drabek said the museum plans to host a week-long, 20-hour weaving workshop led by Coral Chernoff later this month.

“It is a personal commitment,” Drabek said.

She said she hopes more workshops will follow to teach weaving techniques and how to gather and prepare traditional materials.

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