Grantee:  Jackson Polys
Native Citizenship:  Tlingit
Location:  Ketchikan, Alaska
Award:  2017 NACF Mentor Artist Fellowship
Discipline:  Contemporary Visual Arts, Carving
Web Site:

Jackson’s artistic nurturing began early at age three. He gained exposure to carving through his father, renowned Tlingit artist Nathan Jackson. During these formative years of study and practice, Jackson drew inspiration from the fluency and articulation of traditional Northwest Coast formlines and concepts, and began to carve large-scale, totemic sculptures. Jackson seeks to dissolve artificial boundaries between perceptions of traditional Native art forms, practices, and contemporary life—through carved sculptures incorporating diverse materials such as abalone, glass, liquids, resins, silicone, and the readymade.

Jackson will work together with his apprentice, Robert Mills (Tlingit), investigating both traditional and advanced Tlingit carving techniques and formline design concepts. Jackson will collaborate with his apprentice to apply these methodologies in the conceptualization and construction of a series of pieces responding to ancestral items. Their work will honor the historical and current cultural significance of Tlingit society, and the materials and designs used to create the new pieces will be infused with multiple implications that reveal interpretive possibilities. Through this process, Jackson and his apprentice will examine and question the viability of divisions between what might be considered traditional and contemporary Native art as they create a series of works that draws from and merges these two art sets.

Jackson acknowledges the gift of his experiences of apprenticeship and is committed to the perpetuation of traditional Northwest Coast art forms. He is devoted to expanding dialogue around the tenability of desires for indigenous futures — dedicated to possibilities of deploying and innovating through Native art practices to transcend stereotypical thought and invigorate contemporary art.

I want to share the great treasure my father has passed on to me, and to work collaboratively with the apprentice, in order to co-examine and challenge the artistic boundaries of traditional forms, as the place of art and its meaning grows and changes within contemporary culture.
~ Jackson Polys

Mentor and Apprentice Joint Art Project:

In the first phase of their work together, Jackson and Robert Mills designed and executed a bronze monumental sculpture for the Sealaska Heritage Institute. The second phase of their joint art project was the preparation, design, and presentation of their own work shown side-by-side in an exhibition titled Manifest X at The Main Street Gallery in Ketchikan, Alaska.