How do I find authentic Alaska Native art?
With plenty of galleries and a high concentration of artists calling the city home, Anchorage is a great place to look for Alaska Native art. With so many Alaska Native cultures and such innovative artists, here are a few tips to find the real deal.
Ask for authenticity
The shop or gallery should be able to tell you the artist's name, cultural background, village or region of origin. These simple questions are the most important and easiest way to get a sense of a piece, where it comes from and how it is made.
Work with the pros
Local art galleries and many Anchorage museums and cultural centers feature Alaska Native arts and crafts. These established shops have strong working ties with the artists, pride themselves on authenticity, and are excellent first stops.
Examine small details
A master takes great pride in detail; look for small signs. In baskets, for example, the tighter the weave and more symmetrical the shape, the higher quality the piece.
Look for the Silver Hand logo
The logo of a hand in silver indicates that the artwork on which it appears is created by hand in Alaska by an individual Alaska Native artist. You can be certain these works meet a particular set of stringent standards, but know that not all Alaska Native artists choose to participate in the state-run program.
Meet the artist
Events like the AFN Alaska Native Customary Art Show, Charlotte Jensen Native Arts Market during Anchorage Fur Rendezvous, and the Native Peoples Bazaar at the Alaska Native Medical Center are all excellent opportunities to find a lot of art in one place, and speak with the artists themselves.
Notice tradition or innovation
Some pieces – like carvings of animals or figures hunting, fishing or dancing – reflect the tradition of an artist's culture. Others, like whalebone sculptures, showcase innovation by incorporating contemporary shapes into a traditional art medium. Remember that these are living cultures; an artist may choose traditional forms and subjects, or boldly incorporate new ideas, methods or media.
Beautiful art has the ability to spark powerful responses in us. Follow your feelings and you will have a piece of Alaska to enjoy for years to come.