Sonya Kelliher-Combs (Anchorage, Alaska)
Maureen Gruben (Tuktoyaktuk, NT)
Sissel M. Bergh (Trondheim, Norway)
Inaugural exhibition of the Nordic Lab, SAW's new Indigenous-led research and production space with a focus on artists from the circumpolar world
Opening reception and party
Friday, November 19, 2021, 8PM-1AM
The artists will be in attendance. Free admission. Music by DJ Geronimo Inutiq (Winnipeg), Kathy Kettler (Ottawa) and Kendra Tagoona (Ottawa). Food prepared by Howard Adler (Ottawa)
When the tide goes out, what was hidden becomes seen. And if the tide stayed out for a very long time, if we stood in one place long enough to examine each stone and saltwater pool, each piece of seaweed, each small creature, we might notice all their differences and all their similarities.
The exhibition Alakkaajut (Many Things Appear) features works by circumpolar artists Sonya Kelliher-Combs, Sissel M. Bergh and Maureen Gruben, most of which were created in the past year. These works presented together are the products of repetition—not copies, but multiples that belong to each other. With Alakkaajut, we have a moment to ask what is the value of a word, a thought, a movement completed many times.
Iñupiaq and Athabaskan artist Sonya Kelliher-Combs was born in Bethel, Alaska, in 1969 and raised in Nome. She holds a BFA from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and an MFA from Arizona State University, Tempe. Her artwork references a sense of place, history, culture and family. Kelliher-Combs is the recipient of numerous awards including the Eiteljorg Museum Fellowship, the Anchorage, Alaska, Mayor’s Individual Artist Award, the Arctic Education Foundation Academic Excellence Award and the Best of Show honour at the Visual Arts Center of Alaska’s Vision of New Eyes exhibition. Her work can be found in numerous private and public collections including those of the National Museum of the American Indian, the Anchorage Museum, the Eiteljorg Museum, the British Royal Museum, the Institute of American Indian Art, the Museum of Contemporary Native Art and the Alaska State Museum.
Inuvialuk artist Maureen Gruben explores intimate materiality as she disassembles and re-combines disparate organic and industrial elements. Polar bear fur, beluga intestines and sealskins encounter resins, vinyl and bubble wrap, forging critical links between life in the Western Arctic and global environmental and cultural concerns. Gruben holds a BFA from the University of Victoria, and has exhibited regularly across Canada and internationally. She was longlisted for the 2019 Aesthetica Art Prize and the 2021 Sobey Art Award, and her work can be found in major public and private collections. Born and raised in Tuktoyaktuk, she has an implicit knowledge of Arctic land, and the rich but increasingly precarious resources it offers for both survival and creation.
Born in 1974, Sissel M. Bergh studied at the National Academy of Fine Arts in Oslo and the University of Technology in Durban in South Africa. She has lived and worked in Lusaka, Zambia, and is now based in Trondheim, Norway. Bergh’s work often seeks to reveal how South Sámi history has been erased and how it may become visible again. Bergh uses films, objects, painting and drawing as investigatory tools to delve into concepts such as land, memory, power and magic. Bergh has shown her work nationally and internationally, including at Kunsthall Trondheim, Sámi Dáiddáguovdas, the Biennale of Sidney and the Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art.
Funders: the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, the City of Ottawa, the Government of Canada, the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Nordic Council of Ministers, the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Ottawa, the Ottawa Community Foundation and the Ottawa Art Society