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Arts and Entertainment

Alaska artist Nicholas Galanin works in many mediums

  • Author: Trina Landlord
  • Updated: June 30, 2016
  • Published January 19, 2012

Multi–disciplinary and internationally known Tlingit-Aleut artist Nicholas Galanin works with concepts, and then the medium follows. He is a filmmaker, visual artist, musician, lecturer and instructor, and as a master carver, oversaw apprenticeships for other aspiring artists . He uses many mediums, including paper, sterling silver, cedar, copper, charcoal, bronze, gold, furs, in addition to music and video.

Born in Sitka, Nicholas has lived, traveled and worked all over the world. He received his Associate of Arts at the University of Alaska Southeast in Sitka; graduated with honors in silversmithing and jewelry design at Guildhall University in London, England; and earned his Masters in Visual Arts at Massey University in New Zealand.

Talent to create and carve runs in his family. His great-grandfather sculpted in wood, and his father works in precious metal and stone.

Galanin has had solo exhibitions around the world, including the Toronto Free Gallery in Toronto, Canada; Trench Contemporary Art Gallery and UBC Museum of Anthropology, both in Vancouver, B.C.; Museum of Contemporary Native Art in Santa Fe, N.M.; Takatake Gallery in Whakatane, New Zealand; and the Alaska Native Arts Foundation.

In Galanin's artist's statement, he says, "In the business of this 'Indian Art World' I have become impatient with the institutional prescription and its monolithic attempt to define culture as it unfolds. Native American Art will not be commonly defined as our work moves freely through time. The viewer, collector, or curators' definition often conveys more about themselves than that of the 'Native Artist.'"

He went on to say, "In the past I have struggled with this title, though I now embrace my position as a contemporary indigenous artist with belief that some forms of resistance often carry equal amounts of persistence. My current collection of work presents visual experiences in hope of inspiring creative dialogue with the viewer. I work with an intention to contribute toward contemporary cultural development. Through education and creative risk taking I hope to progress cultural awareness."

Galanin has participated in nearly 40 group shows since 2003, such as, "Totems to Turquoise" at the Natural History Museum in New York, New York; "Inspiration" at the Pratt Museum in Homer; "Dry Ice" at the Princeton Art Museum in Princeton, N.J.; and "A-Y-P: Indigenous Voices Reply" at the Burke Museum in Seattle.

Galanin has earned recognition for his art and been awarded the Rasmuson Individual Artist Fellowship in 2008 and 2011; Best Experimental Film at the ImagineNATIVE Film & Media Arts Festival in Toronto, Canada; first place in Contemporary Arts at Sealaska; Goldsmiths Commendation, London; and A.S.C.A. Esther Littlefield Heritage Study Award in Sitka.

His works of art may be found in museums, foundations, collections and universities in Alaska, Arizona, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Washington and internationally at Humboldt – Forum in Berlin, Germany, Sir John Cass in London, UK and Musée D'Art Contemporain De Baie St-Paul, QC, Canada.

Trina Landlord is the Communications Associate for the Alaska Native Arts Foundation. She can be reached at trina(at)

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