“Without Boundaries: Visual Conversations,” an exhibit opening on February 16 at IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA), grew out of a series of conversations curated by artist Sonya Kelliher-Combs at the Anchorage Museum in Alaska, MoCNA, Barnard College in New York and the Northern Norway Art Museum.
“Over a span of two years I brought together artists, scholars, activists and leaders to promote public discourse about issues affecting life in the North and beyond,” says Kelliher-Combs, who was raised in the Northwest Alaska community of Nome and earned her master of fine arts degree from Arizona State University.
“These conversations have taken the form of panel discussions, performances, installations and an exhibition. They have taken place in Alaska, Norway, Iceland and New Mexico and have been broadcast via the worldwide web.”
“All of the artists and curators who are included in the exhibition and catalogue participated in this series of curated conversations,” Kelliher-Combs continues. “They offer a commentary that is deeply personal, sharing a perspective that I hope promotes understanding and dialogue.”
Among the issues reflected in the work on display are abuse, marginalization, commodification and the historical and contemporary struggles of Indigenous peoples.
“Without Boundaries: Visual Conversations” includes pieces by Barry Pottle (Inuit), Charlene Teters (Spokane), James Luna (Payómkawichum/Luiseño), Larry McNeil (Tlingit/Nisga’a), Jessie Kleeman (Inuit/Greenland), Nicholas Galanin (Tlingit/Unangax), Shan Goshorn (Eastern Band Cherokee) and Emily Johnson (Yup’ik).
Kelliher-Combs invited artists she knew to participate in the curated conversations and show as well as others she hadn’t personally met before.
“It was important for me to show the diversity of media that many indigenous artists employ in their work,” Kelliher-Combs explains. “Many use what would be considered more historical materials and techniques while others utilize contemporary media.”