Alison Bremner is a Tlingit artist living in Yakutat and apprenticing in the Tlingit language. She is a member of the Git-Hoan and Mount Saint Elias Dancers. She won second place for “Cat Lady” in the Best of Formline category during Celebration 2016 Juried Art Show.
CCW: Do you have any particular creative routines or habits — favorite spaces to work, times of day, materials you use, music you listen to, etc.?
AB: I’ve heard the saying “where there’s a will, there’s a way,” but for me, where there is coffee, there is a will. I jump between listening to Lingít audio recordings and really embarrassing pop music I’d not care to mention. If it’s just me, some coffee, in a space that allows for dance breaks when the mood strikes, things are bound to get creative.
CCW: What do you find particularly inspiring?
AB: My two nephews are the root of my inspiration. Contact with the western world greatly hindered the production of our art. As many Native artists will say, our art wasn’t simply art. It was a visual representation of our culture. I’m interested in learning as much as I can of the art and the language to share with future generations.
And again, coffee.
CCW: Who are your favorite artists?
AB: I really admire both my mentors, David A. Boxley and David R. Boxley, as well as Crystal Worl, Andy Everson, Robert Davidson and Meghann O’Brien to name a few.
CCW: How do you balance your creative life with your day job (if you have one?)
AB: I just recently made the move to Yakutat to become a Tlingit language apprentice at the Yakutat Tlingit Tribe. I have the honor of learning from Lena Farkas and Ted Valle, two fantastic Lingít speakers and culture bearers. They have been so generous with their time. It’s my first “real” job, so I still enjoy Mondays. Working with Lena and Ted is a bit of a dream come true. Delving into our history and language adds another layer to my art and is inspiring on a much deeper level. I look forward to being a lifetime student of the art and of the language.
CCW: Carving is a traditionally male pursuit, which makes you unusual. How did you get started carving, drawing formline, and generally pursuing your art?
AB: Something clicked one year at the biennial Alaska Native dance gathering, Celebration, in Juneau. Seeing the way our art came to life when danced, feeling the energy from Git-Hoan’s large masks, there simply wasn’t any other career option from there on out. I went straight home and did my first formline painting. Men in my field have been very supportive, since we are all working towards the same goal: strengthening the visual connection to our culture.
CCW: What are you working on now, and when do you hope to finish it?
AB: My practice has two sides – the art created for traditional and ceremonial use, and art created for commercial purposes. The commercial side is where humor really comes into play. So, at the moment I’m working on a beaded bikini top for an upcoming exhibition in late 2017. That being said, someone could decide to use the bikini top for traditional purposes…
CCW: What advice has been beneficial to you?
AB: The best advice I’ve received is from my mentor and close friend, David R. Boxley. In short, “Work.” Just work. Just do it. David R. is very eloquent and wise beyond his years, so I am over-simplifying his advice greatly. But just working, finishing that piece, often times will solve the problem at hand.
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