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Investigating the life and work of Siberian Yupik artist Florence Napaaq Malewotkuk
Yup’ik artist Amber Webb is working as a Museum Sovereignty Curatorial Fellow with the Anchorage Museum on a project investigating the life and work of Siberian Yupik artist Florence Napaaq Malewotkuk (1906-1971). Webb is interested in examining the forces that shaped Malewotkuk’s life and work, including her relationship with the anthropologist Otto Geist, as well as tourists and collectors of her work. The ways the forces of colonization shaped her life, including exploitation, coercion, and pressure related to her artistic production, are questions Webb is seeking to better understand: “I want to really think about what it means to be a Yup’ik woman artist and what that’s meant historically—the ways that we have always made art and the ways that our art has changed because of the things people expect from us or want from us. The art we make has relayed our experience of historic trauma as well as our resistance to that. I wonder what Florence would have made without the expectations of others, the stories they wanted to hear.”
Webb has been investigating online, at the Anchorage Museum library and archives, and at the Sam Fox Museum in Dillingham. Her research will involve conversations with contemporary female-identified Alaska Native artists, as well as a site visit to the University of Fairbanks Museum of the North to view their collection of early Malewotkuk works and documents.
Webb hopes to write an article on her research, and host conversations via a podcast or public Zoom event where participants can discuss Malewotkuk’s work, life, and her enduring significance for contemporary Native artists today.
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