Exploring the Artistic Worlds of Nicholas Galanin
Indian Country Today
Nicholas Galanin (Tlingit/Unangax̂) is a multi-disciplinary artist whose work offers perspective rooted in connection to land and an intentionally broad engagement with contemporary culture. For over a decade, Galanin has been embedding incisive observation into his work, investigating and expanding intersections of culture and concept in form, image and sound. Galanin’s works embody critical thought. They are vessels of knowledge, culture and technology – inherently political, generous, unflinching, and poetic.
Galanin’s concepts determine his materials and processes. His practice is expansive and includes numerous collaborations with visual and recording artists, including an ongoing collaboration with his brother and fellow artist Jerrod Galanin, under the moniker Leonard Getinthecar. He is a member of two artist collectives: Black Constellation and Winter Count.
The substance and execution of his work engages past, present and future. Through two- and three-dimensional works, and time-based media, Galanin encourages reflection on cultural amnesia that actively obscures collective memory and acquisition of knowledge. Galanin creates sounds moving in time and animals fixed in space. Splintering apart replica carvings, he destroys the outputs of commodified culture, rearranging the pieces to reflect its nefarious effects. He creates petroglyphs in sidewalks and coastal rock, masks cut from books, ceramic arrows in flight, and repurposes handcuffs, which he engraves, formerly used to remove indigenous children from their families, naming them children’s bracelets.
Galanin has apprenticed with master carvers and jewelers. He earned his BFA at London Guildhall University in Jewelry Design, and his MFA in Indigenous Visual Arts at Massey University in New Zealand. Galanin lives and works in Sitka, Alaska.
Culture cannot be contained as it unfolds. My art enters this stream at many different points, looking backwards, looking forwards, generating its own sound and motion. I am inspired by generations of Tlingit & Unangax̂ creativity and contribute to this wealthy conversation through active curiosity. There is no room in this exploration for the tired prescriptions of the “Indian Art World” and its institutions. Through creating I assert my freedom.
Concepts drive my medium. I draw upon a wide range of indigenous technologies and global materials when exploring an idea. Adaptation and resistance, lies and exaggeration, dreams, memories and poetic views of daily life–these themes recur in my work, taking form through sound, texture, and image. Inert objects spring back to life; kitsch is reclaimed as cultural renewal; dancers merge ritual and rap. I am most comfortable not knowing what form my next idea will take, a boundless creative path of concept-based motion.
Upcoming shows featuring Galanin’s work include a solo show at Peters Projects in Santa Fe, through September 2; Live in the Planetarium: Indian Agent, a music and performance piece at the Anchorage Museum on September 1; participation in three group shows: Unsettled, at the Nevada Museum of Art, August 26 – January 21, 2018, Water Line: A Creative Exchange at the Center for Visual Art at the Metropolitan State University of Denver, though October 21, and Connective Tissue: New Approaches to Fiber in Contemporary Art at the Institute of American Indian Arts, through January 21, 2018.
An upcoming monograph on Galanin’s work will soon be published via minor matters.