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Sonya Kelliher-Combs – Unraveled Walrus Family Portrait

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Sonya Kelliher-Combs, Unraveled Walrus Family Portrait (2000-20013)
Acrylic polymer, polyurethane, walrus stomach, archival ink, and nylon thread.
On view at Museum of Contemporary Craft (January 31, 2014 – April 19, 2014)

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Sonya Kelliher-Combs, Unraveled Walrus Family Portrait (detail) (2000-20013)
Acrylic polymer, polyurethane, walrus stomach, archival ink, and nylon thread.
On view at Museum of Contemporary Craft (January 31, 2014 – April 19, 2014)

There is much worth looking at and thinking about at the Museum of Contemporary Craft’s show “This is Not A Silent Movie,” which features the work of four contemporary Alaskan Native artists. Sonya Kelliher-Combs’ Unraveled Walrus Family Portrait is a grid of roughly square compositions with subtle, muted designs on them that seem to recall organic protrusions or cavities: teeth, stomachs, nipples, fins – it’s hard to tell. Kelliher-Combs is interested in creating “skin”-like surfaces and these are made of walrus stomach as well as acrylic polymer, polyurethane, and nylon thread. The surfaces have wonderful qualities (corrugated and worked by hand) and a fascinating presence somewhere between two dimensions and three. The iconography is difficult to unravel and the artist has declared that she’s interested in secrets. But it seems clear that we’re witnessing something intimate and meaningful (skin that’s bared or turned inside out) even if we can’t decipher it – and it’s a wonderful and expanding use of materials both familiar and unfamiliar.

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