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'True North' opens at Anchorage Museum

Posted: May 17, 2012 - 12:04am

“True North: Contemporary Art of the Circumpolar North,” opening Friday at the Anchorage Museum, portrays a North that is complex and in transition. The exhibition features nearly 80 photographs, films and multi-media installations by 40 artists from Scandinavia, Russia, Canada and the United States, including many Alaskans.

Curated by Anchorage Museum Chief Curator Julie Decker over the past three years, “True North” highlights questions of indigenous identity and what it means to be ground zero for climate change.

“These artists are attempting to define place –– not the romantic North of earlier generations but the next North, one that is connected, pivotal and conflicted,” said Decker, Anchorage Museum chief curator, in a press release.

In the previous century, the art of the North was based primarily on the awe-inspiring landscape. Today’s Northern artists depict a new landscape, one that is altered by man, at risk, in transition, and in question.

Sarah Anne Johnson’s photographs feature Arctic landscapes with fantastical alterations where buildings grace the tops of glaciers. The Canadian artist celebrates the Arctic’s beauty while reminding us of its precarious future. Donald Weber’s images of the bleak built environment in Siberia and northern Russia indicate that man’s modern ideas for inhabiting the North are flawed, ensuring isolation rather than combatting it.

Many contemporary Northern artists eschew landscapes altogether, focusing instead on how life in the North shapes and affects its inhabitants. Alaska’s Lisa Gray re-casts Mrs. Claus as a powerful female figure. Indigenous artists Ken Lisbourne and Annie Pootoogook offer an insider perspective into daily village life — a world remote and beautiful, yet tainted by alcohol and violence. Brian Adams’ photographs document the effects of climate change on his friends and relatives in Kivalina, one of several Alaska seaside villages eroding into the sea.

In addition to several interactive multi-media installations, this exhibition features 10 hands-on activity stations for families including Arctic animal puzzles and a game featuring Alaska Native words that describe types of snow.

Major support for this exhibition is provided by The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation; BP; Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation; Anchorage Museum Foundation; Nordstrom; and Alaska Airlines.

This exhibit will be on view through Sept. 9.

For more information, visit www.anchoragemuseum.org.

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