Saturday, January 13, 2007
chevak dollsWhen I first moved to Alaska, I was struck by the raw primitive beauty of the place, and awed by the artwork of the Alaska Native people. Each region with specific symbolism and design elements representing the creatures and natural/supernatural forces embedded in their daily lives. In accordance with my profession, I am especially drawn to images of mothers/babies. I have a modest collection of Alaska Native dolls, collected over the past several years. These three are C'upik style dolls from the Chevak,AK region (generally known as "Chevak dolls"), created by artist Ursula Paniyak (Irvin). The Paniyak family includes Master Dollmaker Rosalie Paniyak, and skinsewer Mary Kokrak. Many of their works are on permanent display at the Alaska Native Medical Center and the Alaska Museum of History and Art. These dolls, their clothing and accessories, are created from sealskin, sealgut, fur scraps, beads, and recycled fabric scraps. They are unique in character and often playful. Often, a handwritten "story" from the artist accompanies the dolls. These three are sisters (created at the same time). You will notice that the blue fabric of the middle one's parky (overdress) is the same as the kerchief of the lady on the left. That is because "they are sisters and when she sewed her parky she had enough left over to make a present for her sister." They all have real waffle weave longjohns on. Some people describe them as "scary looking". I see them as a loving, poignant and artistic expression.