David Shanon Gallant

Posted: Sunday, May 25, 2008

Former Juneau resident David Shanon Gallant died March 29, 2008, in Anchorage after a decade-long battle with cancer.

Born in Skagway, she was the daughter of Julia and Harold Gallant. She was raised in Haines and later Juneau, where her traditional Tlingit grandmother, Jenny David, had a hand in her upbringing and gave her the Indian name "Skeek," which she translated as "a bird that flies over the horizon." She was Kaagwaantaan, lukaax.ádi-yadi.

She attended Juneau-Douglas High School before winning a full scholarship in 1965 to the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, N.M., where she studied under nationally know artists such as James McGrath and Lloyd New. Her work was included in a Department of Interior show that toured Europe and her first painting sold for $1,500, but on graduation she was hesitant to attend college.

Finally, refusing funding from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and her father, she signed on with professor Ron Senungetuk at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, driving a school bus to pay expenses. Sensitive about semantics, Senungetuk made the point that he was first an artist and then an Eskimo, and she followed his lead, experimenting with modern art media and techniques, as well as traditional concepts.

Later transferring to Rhode Island School of Design, she came under the influence of western artists such as John Battenberg and Harry Powers, experimented with California concepts and focused on metal sculpture. Then, with a bachelor of arts in hand, she studied for 18 months in Rome, South America and Mexico, producing 150 pieces of art.

The resulting show - a barrier-breaking collection of metal sculpture, oil paintings, wood carvings and Plexiglas - got mixed reviews. To the artist's delight, it also got her work featured by the "Alaska Journal: History and Arts of the North" (Summer 1976) in a cover story titled "The Outrageous Gallant."

Still much influenced by western artists, she went on to study at San Jose State, took a hiatus of a few years as a landscape gardener in San Francisco, and then got her master's in art from University of California at Monterey Bay. Somewhere along the way, she officially adopted her grandmother's last name as her first, and turned her back on traditional art forms. She had been working in computer graphics and Web design ever since.

Her avocations included cooking to entertain, hiking, reading everything she could get her hands on and coaching computer-challenged friends who sought help. In addition, she tutored fledgling artists interested in her field.

An art scholarship is being established in her name at University of Alaska Fairbanks.

She is survived by her sister, A. Lee Liberté, of Juneau.

A celebration in her honor is being planned. For information, contact Lael Morgan at laelmorgan@cs.com.

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