HERE TO THERE AND THERE TO HERE
This collaborative piece by Terresa White and fellow Alaska Native artist, Sean Gallagher, is an expression of their friendship, their interrelated artistic journeys, and their movement in and around their Pacific Northwest homes. HERE TO THERE AND THERE TO HERE is a conversation between Terresa and Sean about their shared Alaska Native ways of navigating place, identity, and culture.
We Yup’ik and Iñupiat Native peoples of Alaska have been using masks for generations to tell our stories and to facilitate movement between human, animal, and spirit worlds. Also related to movement but on a more mundane level, boats have carried our peoples to the subsistence activities that have sustained and shaped our ways of knowing and understanding. Our concentric circle designs have been used to represent levels of cosmology and pathways for movement between worlds. Together with the concentric circle, the mask and the boat are essential elements of Yup’ik and Iñupiat Alaska Native material cultures that shape and are shaped by the experiences and identities of our peoples. The qayaq design in this installation is a symbolic lifeboat buoying us, the artists, through the calm and storms of time, life, and space represented by bentwood concentric circles.
The self-portrait masks cradled in the left qayaq cockpit embodies pieces of my personal story and identity–the traditional tattoo lines are made up of the names of my elders and culture-bearers, my granny and my aunties; half of the face is white, pointing to my mixed heritage and personal struggles with identity brought about by skin color and the displacement of my family; half of the face is brown, pointing to my cultural upbringing and my yup’ik ways and values.
The topmost center mask is a personified map, cosmic and ancestral–our ancestors mapped many voyages of their lives by tunturyuk, the big dipper.
The lowermost mask, the snowy owl, is a guide, the clear sight and spiritual vision gifted us by our culture-bearers. Our ancestral heritage orients us as we venture to live our native values from the sometimes disorienting position of displacement within the mainstream culture of our homes in the Pacific Northwest.