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Inupiat Alaska artist puts village life in spotlight for First Friday show

Trina Landlord
"The Patience That Leads to Success" is among the works that will be featured at Wendell Brower's First Friday show at the Alaska Native Arts Foundation in downtown Anchorage. Photo courtesy ANAF

Inupiat artist Wendell Brower featured for First Friday during the month of June at the Alaska Native Arts Foundation in downtown Anchorage. He is from Barrow, the farthest northern community in the U.S.

The title of Brower's show, “I have seen…”, is about the artist’s Inupiat culture and what he has seen through the years. His exhibition depicts year-round activities like whaling and the celebrations surrounding harvesting them. 

“We have in our Inupiat culture a rich history from the past," Brower said. "I want my show to portray that we (Inupiat peoples) are still here and will be into the future.”

Brower acquired his associates degree in applied sciences and studied painting and sculpture at the University of Alaska Anchorage. 

Brower was always interested in art for fun. At an early age, he started drawing scenes from village life, in particular, snowmachines. He built his skills over the years and today is living the dream as an artist.

His Inupiat heritage inspires and informs his artwork, especially hunting and whaling from the land and water on the North Slope. His vision for his exhibit at Alaska Native Arts Foundation is to get a glimpse of what he’s experience in life. 

Brower's Pastor, Tony Henry from Kiana, inspires him. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be an artist,” Brower said. The two met while selling their art at the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation building in Anchorage.

Brower also looks up to his uncle, Inupiat artist Larry Ahvakana, particularly his sculptures and carvings. “Larry is a role model," Brower said. "He showed me that (career) artists could be successful.”

Brower also appreciates the works of Alutiiq artist and professor, Alvin Amason, saying he likes his colors and three-dimensional effects. Brower said likes Amason’s color play and how his work "pops."

Brower has had a solo exhibition at Two Spirits, a Native-owned gallery in downtown Anchorage. He has also been part of group exhibits at the University of Alaska and the International Gallery of Contemporary Art. He has also donated art to the KNBA Art Auction. This is Brower’s first show at the Alaska Native Arts Foundation.

Trina Landlord is the Executive Director of the Alaska Native Arts Foundation. She can be reached at trina(at)alaskanativearts.org