Erin Ggaadimits Ivalu Gingrich grew up around the State of Alaska, received a tailored education, and started fishing as a young woman. Her work reconnects with the historically traditional beliefs stemming from her ancestors’ value of the natural environment as gifts gathered from the land. Her childhood exposure to Alaska’s biodiversity through the lens of sacred subsistence lifeways fundamentally shaped her understanding of the value of Alaska’s ecosystems as both an immeasurable entity and a gatherable gift cared for over generations dating back to her ancestors.
Gingrich is a carver, painter, beadworker, photographer and designer. She creates carved, painted, and beaded sculpture and mask forms, and designs modern Alaska Native snowshirts (kuspuks). At the University of Alaska Fairbanks, she took a carving class with Da-ka-xeen Mehner, a Tlingit/N’ishga artist who directs the Native Art Center at UAF. Before long, carving started making sense to Gingrich, though it too was not inevitable. “Carving seemed masculine,” says Gingrich “in contrast to the customary woman’s work of sewing.”
Gingrich’s LIFT project, Allaŋŋuq (Change), will represent natural forms of transformation in natural beings through carved, painted and beaded masks and sculptures of birds, fish, mammals and plants in the process of, or with connection to, their natural evolution. These pieces will feature dual representations of the same being transformed into their other colors, or beings revealed with the use of hinges, wires and triptych style inua (spirit) transformation masks that unfold. Some masks will reveal the hidden spirit inside coming from the mouth of an animal and multiple pieces painted to represent the transitions from one form/color to another. These works will be photographed for online display on an exhibition website; images of the works will feature notes, process images, research notes, and multiple perspectives on transformation.
Change is occurring everywhere but it is painfully obvious here in the Arctic, and the plants and animals that live here have been adapting to their environment for the past millennia. They transform to stay alive, will we?
—Erin Ggaadimits Ivalu Gingrich (Koyukon Athabaskan & Inupiaq)