Eiteljorg Musuem Blog

Meet the Fellows | Nicholas Galanin (Part II of V)

by DeShong Perry-Smitherman, Eiteljorg public relations manager | Oct 16, 2013

Each week the Eiteljorg blog will profile artists who will be featured in RED: Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship. The exhibit opens Nov. 9. Details below!

What follows is an excerpt from Nicholas Galanin: Translate Transpose Transmit Shifting Indigenous Aesthetics  by Tania Willard (Secwepemc Nation)
(from RED: Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship exhibition catalog).
Nicholas Galanin (Tlingit/Aleut)

Culture cannot be contained as it unfolds. My art enters this stream at different points, looking backards, looking forwards, generating its own sound and motion. - Nicholas Galanin 

Alaskan-based Tlingit artist Nicholas Galanin’s work is a poignant example of straddling the remarkable interstice between traditional and contemporary art. The aesthetic classifications of "craft," "contemporary," and "traditional" and/or "Native art" all conjure particular sets of expectations. Galanin’s work plays with these expectations. His work travels two parallel paths. One path follows an expected trajectory in traditional carving and jewelry that his great-grandfather passed to his father. The second path veers off dramatically with inquiry into satire and iconoclasm, and encompasses more of the artist’s "contemporary" art practice seen in museums and galleries. However, the expected signifiers of cultural object or ethnographic art are undermined in his practice by the conceptual nature of his process. By outsourcing the production of some of his work, Galanin subverts the idea of the folkloric Indian artist and replaces that narrative with a sense of globalized craft that carries into Indian art and wider culture. Referencing and exploiting the interplay of art, culture, and commerce, Galanin’s work examines shifting cultures as if they were tectonic plates, the monumental movement within them creating faults, mountains, and earthquakes as cultures assimilate, adapt, and expropriate. 

Nicholas Galanin (Tlingit/Aleut)
I Think It Goes Like This?,
Wood, paint
Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship Acquisition Fund 

An examination of the shifting nature of indigeneity can be seen in I Think it Goes Like This?, a seeming puzzle of dissected totem pole or sculptural elements, disassembled and installed as a pile of disparate but related elements. Painted matte black, the carvings protocol is all mixed up. Which clan animal goes where? The eagle is not on top. Is there even an eagle? Indians are all about eagles. The artist cuts up expectations and rule books in his push to question and innovate. As much as Galanin likes to mix up and target cultural stereotypes with satire, his work is also about having big heart and a deep respect for his cultural heritage. –Tania Willard (2013)

Nicholas Galanin (Tlingit/Aleut)
The American Dream is Alie and Well, 2012
United States flag, felt, .50 caliber ammunition, foam, gold leaf, plastic
collection of the artist

Being brought up both in and away from my indigenous culture, I have experienced a very different perspective on my heritage than my great-grandparents would have known. The generational spread that our cultural community encompasses moves far beyond a romantic ideal commonly associated with the term “Indian Art.” We are being culturally dishonest if we reject all that passes through our culture. –Nicholas Galanin (2013)

Nicholas Galanin (Tlingit/Aleut)
No Indians or Dogs Allowed, 2008
Neon, photography
Courtesy of the Pratt Museum

The piece [is] an investigation of historical and current prejudice and policies of persistent racism against indigenous people in the artist’s home of Alaska and globally. This work [includes] a neon sign that was placed in storefronts, an assertion of current political climates and a foray into new materials and media that [is] suggestive of the development of the artist’s later work.  –Tania Willard (2013)

Schedule for opening weekend of RED:Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship
5:30–7:30 p.m.
$40 – includes Saturday’s activities
To commemorate the opening of RED: the Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship, the museum will honor the five Native Fellowship winners with an intimate gathering that celebrates their artistic accomplishments.

7:30 p.m.–12 a.m.
Contemporary Arts Party
$15 at the door, $10 in advance – includes Saturday’s activities
Celebrate the opening of RED by partying all night to the sounds of A Tribe Called Red and DJ Kyle Long of the Cultural Cannibals. Additional entertainment will be provided by the comedy improve group the 1491s, Big Car, Know No Stranger, and more!
Tickets are available for purchase at


All Day
RED: Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship
Be among the first to experience RED.
Opening Day a
ctivities include a gallery tour with the Fellows from 10 a.m.-12 p.m and from 1–3 p.m. a presentation by comedic cultural critics, the 1491s. Saturday's event is in collaboration with the 2013 Spirit & Place Festival. This festival reaches 20,000 people each year through dozens of “never before seen” programs that promote growth of the human spirit.

 Nicholas is one of five 2013 Fellows and his artwork will be featured in the exhibition RED: The Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship, opening Nov. 9. This biennial program recognizes the accomplishments of one invited and four juried Fellows, which are chosen by a panel of independent experts. As part of the Fellowship, each artist receives a $25,000 unrestricted cash award and their work is exhibited and further explored in an accompanying catalog. In addition, the museum purchases a total of over $100,000 worth of art from the Fellows for the permanent collection, adding to a body of work that has given the Eiteljorg Museum a collection of Native contemporary art that has been referred to as the “greatest in the world.”


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