Nicholas Galanin (b. 1979 Sitka, Alaska) examines the complexities of Indigenous identity, culture, and representation while celebrating the resilience and strength of Indigenous people. His Tlingit background informs his practice that combines traditional and contemporary approaches, and employs myriad techniques including printmaking. Galanin embeds incisive observation and reflection into his work while reclaiming creative agency and demonstrating contemporary Tlingit art as a continually evolving and dynamic practice. Galanin participated in the 2019 Whitney Biennial with work in collections such as Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The National Gallery of Canada, Princeton University Art Museum, and Denver Art Museum, among others.
In Galanin’s monotypes, the artist’s hand as much as Tlingit culture’s history shapes the representation. Each monotype bears the imprint of a story of its creation, not as myth, but as lived experience and through memory—the marks showing the spontaneity of a drawing with the enduring qualities of a print. The title of the 2018 series, Let them Enter Dancing and Showing Their Faces is a reference to an ancestral entrance dance where the face is revealed, not masked. The imagery is central to Tlingit life and references and mimics visual movements of a customary aesthetic. However, Galanin’s contemporary interpretation forms a creative continuum that combines past with present. This is reflected in the title of the 2019 monotype series, Everything We’ve Ever Been, Everything We Are Right Now.
Monotypes are included in the collections of such museums as The Art Institute of Chicago, IL; Alaska State Museum, Juneau, AK; The Detroit Institute of Fine Arts, MI; Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY; Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX.
“I am inspired by generations of Tlingit and Unangax̂ creative production and knowledge connected to the land to which I belong. From this perspective, I engage across cultures with contemporary conditions. My process of creation is a constant pursuit of freedom and vision for the present and future."
— Nicholas Galanin
“Let Them Enter Dancing and Showing Their Faces is a reference to Tlingit culture, specifically an entrance dance where the face is revealed, not masked. Dancing in our culture to move as our ancestors moved. There is much to be learned in this space, where we combine time, song, ceremony, and community, and breathe life into our robes, masks, headdresses, and hats, our at’oow. I would like to think that much of the work I have been creating over this time span has in some way contributed to cultural continuum and movement. Some of the faces being revealed in dialogue with my works are not just the dancers but the faces within the society we dance in.”
— Nicholas Galanin on Let Them Enter Dancing and Showing Their Faces
"In another [monotype], two profiles faced each other: One was deep underground, the other poised on the horizon. A kiss, or maybe a river of breath, connected them. By interlacing such moments of deep reverence with pointed critique, Galanin carved a space for complexity that unsettled rather than pacified."
— Christina Schmid, Nicholas Galanin, Law Warschaw Gallery, Artforum, January 2020
Familiar Faces 4, 2013
Monotype on paper
12 1/4 x 9 3/8 inches (31.1 x 23.8 cm)
"He called the dance-informed prints (which share the title Let Them Enter Dancing and Showing Their Faces) 'an attempt at capturing cultural memory that is accessed through connections to land, through skinning a deer, through cleaning a salmon—and teaching your children to do all of that. We have these things ingrained in our memory and in our DNA. Whatever that feeling is, it’s not something you can look at, and it’s not something you can hold. But you can feel it, and it comes and goes.'
— Nicholas Galanin in Andy Battaglia, Ancient to the Future: Nicholas Galanin Aims to Change How Indigenous Art Is Understood, ARTnews, 2020.
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