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Spring-Summer 2023

Two Complementary Exhibitions

Sonya Kelliher-Combs (Iñupiaq/Athabascan) returns to the Alaska State Museum with a solo exhibition opening March 2023. The award-winning artist also continues her decades-long relationship with the museum in an exhibition exploring gut. It opens May 2023 in the adjoining gallery.

The complementary exhibitions will feature Kelliher-Combs’ own sculptural work as well as gut objects from the museum’s collection such as parkas, drums, windows, and vessels.

Gut Collaboration

Kelliher-Combs is one of the few artists in Alaska using gut. Her work uses natural and synthetic materials such as the inner organs of animals and poured synthetic polymers to express ongoing themes of identity, secrets, transparency, abuse, healing, and catharsis.

She will work with ASM conservator Ellen Carrlee to select and interpret cultural objects made of gut. Carrlee’s anthropological research about gut in Alaska Native communities emphasizes its role in subsistence relationships, its technological properties as both waterproof and vapor permeable, and its history as a spiritual material.

Their ongoing collaboration in preparation for these exhibits is at the forefront of museum practice in the use, care, and exhibition of this spectacular material. See Exploring Alaska Native Gut: Exhibition, Collections, and Artistic Development.

Funding support for curatorial collaboration, conservation intern training, and proteomic analysis to identify species has been contributed by the CIRI Foundation’s A Journey to What Matters: Alaska Native Cultural Heritage and Artistic Sovereignty in Museums Project, The Rasmuson Foundation Collections Management Fund Grant, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Opportunity for Diversity in Conservation.

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