Kesu: The Art and Life of Doug Cranmer
By Jennifer Kramer (Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia)
The blurb: The northwest coast Kwakwaka'wakw art is renowned for its flamboyant, energetic and colorful carving and painting. Among the best-known practitioners was Doug Crammer, a Native artist from British Columbia who found an international following in the '60s.
Excerpt: "There is a tendency to consider those who sell their artwork as 'commercial artists,' yet selling art need not mean 'selling out.' Doug Cranmer was acutely aware of this. His trajectory as a professional artist shows that there can be a difference between relying on artmaking to make a living and harnessing the art market simply to make money. Although Doug undoubtedly played an important role in the development of the Native Northwest Coast art market, many of his contributions to the field have come from his reluctance to bow down to its expectations. Throughout his career, he continuously strove to put his creativity to work rather than work his creativity into the demands of the market. As Doug said to Karen Duffek in a 2002 interview, he treated artmaking as both an outlet for his inventiveness and a job that was 'better than working for a living.' "
The Fur Farms of Alaska: Two Centuries of History and a Forgotten Stampede
By Sarah Crawford Isto (University of Alaska Press Fairbanks, $29.95)
The blurb: This 200 year history of Alaska fur farming traces its beginnings in the late 18th century to the industry's eventual failure, including the spike in fur prices in the 1890s and 1920s that led to hundreds of farms popping up around the state in a few years.
Excerpt: "Pelt prices reached a Depression nadir in 1933. The financial damage of the previous three years was insurmountable for most farmers. In 1934, pelt prices began a slow ascent, but Alaska fur farms would continue to close for several more years. Feed costs were partly to blame. Farmers along the railbelt (the Alaska Railroad corridor connecting Seward, Anchorage, and Fairbanks) customarily cooked up rations of wild meat, cereal, and vegetables in huge iron pots over outdoor fireboxes. These farmers were at a special disadvantage in the period from 1930-1932 because snowshoe hares in the region were at a low point in their approximate ten-year cycle. Interior fur farmers could not simply replace hares with moose or caribou because territorial law banned feeding game (with the exception of predatory birds) to captive foxes or other furbearers. This law, on the books since 1920, was not vigorously enforced, but the usual penalty -- a $100 to $250 fine and forfeiture of the guilty person's rifle -- was a deterrent."
-- Compiled by Matt Sullivan, Anchorage Daily News