Alaska Department of Education & Early Development
Alaska State Libraries, Archives & Museums
For Immediate Release
September 7, 2022
The Sheldon Jackson Museum’s September Artifact of the Month is a contemporary mask entitled Midsummer Moon Mask by Alutiiq, Haida, and Tsimshian artist Allie High (SJ-2022-1-1). The mask was purchased by the Friends of Sheldon Jackson Museum with Rasmuson Art Acquisition Funds, generously awarded in the spring of 2022. The acquisition of this mask is significant for many reasons, most notably because the work is a fresh artistic and innovative statement that exudes feminine energy in the form of a moon face while combining elements of diverse Alaska Native cultures, including the artist’s own.
Midsummer Moon Mask is a mixed media artwork made with alder, acrylic, ash, commercial duck feathers, dyed caribou fur, glass beads, and felt. The painted Sitka roses and forget-me-nots on each side of the cheeks add an "ultra-feminine quality." The formline design elements and colors are traditional to Northwest Coast art and include blue-green, black, and red paint. For High, the red in the nostrils/lips is symbolic of her Haida heritage.
Of all the embellishments, the appendages on Midsummer Moon Mask are perhaps the most striking. High chose to use hoops and duck feathers, often found on Alutiiq masks, to represent her connection to her Alutiiq ancestors and to represent via the hoop, a passageway between the spirit and physical world. She incorporated tufted caribou hair and beadwork, traditionally Athabascan forms, into her appendages - a very atypical material for mask appendages. Museum staff have not seen Alaska Native artists incorporate this practice into masks before. High wanted to include caribou tufting and beadwork in the appendages to celebrate Alaska Native women, the Alaska Native tradition and history of sharing ideas and trading with one another, and to represent her family coming from Ninilchik, a village where Russian, Athabascan, and Alutiiq cultures blended through intermarriage, trade, friendship, and historical ties. To prepare for making this mask, High studied tufting/beading with Emma Hildebrand, an Athabascan culture bearer who supported High's vision for the mask.
Allie High is Tsimshian (Raven), Haida, and Alutiiq. Her family is from Metlakatla and Ninilchik. She grew up in Southeast Alaska. Her art is a reflection of her cultural background and the merging of these cultures, the natural environment of Alaska, and her background in teaching. She seeks to “build upon traditional art symbols and motifs to further define the contemporary world and share the beauty of Alaska’s diverse cultures through the mediums of glass, wood, metal and printmaking.” High has studied under master carver Jack Hudson (Tsimshian), Nathan Jackson (Tlingit), Marvin Oliver (Quinault/Isleta Pueblo), Delores Churchill (Haida), Emma Hildebrand (Athabascan), Bill Holm, and Steve Brown. Although her training and artistic focus has primarily been in Northwest Coast mask carving, printmaking and design, her unyielding creativity has led her to expand into beadwork and caribou tufting and to experiment with combining a variety of mediums. This fusion of art forms with her many sources of inspiration are evident in High’s recent work. Her work is featured in the collections of the Anchorage Museum, the Tongass Historical Museum, and various corporate and private holdings. She is represented by the Stonington Gallery in Seattle. Formerly, High taught art in Alaskan public schools and universities. She lives in Eagle River on traditional Dena'ina land, where she works fulltime as an artist.
High is no stranger to the Friends of Sheldon Jackson Museum. The Friends have hosted her as an artist-in-residence twice in the last 15 years. Earlier this year, the museum hosted an Alaska Native Solo Show of her recent works entitled Sanctuary. Her application was selected from among many talented and qualified Alaska Native artists. The Museum and Friends of Sheldon Jackson Museum are always eager to collect works by artists-in-residence and artists in the Alaska Native Artist Solo Series. Due to limited funding, such acquisitions are not always possible. For this reason, the Friends and museum are especially grateful for the Art Acquisition Funds that allow us to add this mask to the permanent collection.
The Sheldon Jackson Museum September artifact of the month will be exhibited until September 30. Come see the artifact of the month as well as other masks. We're currently open Monday-Saturday, 9 am-4:30 pm. General admission is $9, $8 for seniors, and free for those who are active duty military and their family (with military ID).
Director, Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums
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