From her Anchorage studio, visual artist and 2018 National Artist Fellow Linda Infante Lyons (Alutiiq) discussed the development of her work and its thematic elements with NACF Director of National Artist Fellowships, Reuben Roqueñi. Her work was recently featured at the Alaska State Museum in a solo exhibition titled Ebb and Flow, which included oil paintings of Alaska-inspired landscapes.
At the time of the visit, Lyons was continuing her work painting Alutiiq portraits that replace symbolic elements of Russian Orthodox icons with those of the Alutiiq people. This series started with an exhibit called Decolonizing Alaska at the Alaska State Museum where artists were asked to think about ways they could revive lost native traditions. Lyons blends Alutiiq cultural symbols with assimilated icons of colonizers to bring balance to both her Russian and Alutiiq heritage. In an artist talk with the Alaska State Museum she said that she wanted “to honor Alutiiq heritage and elevate and equalize the power dynamic that has been askew over the years with colonizing.”
Lyons’ strengths are her use of color and her depictions of Alaksan landscapes and Alutiiq people with strong cultural and spiritual components. Her work is intuitive with landscapes and portraits painted in simplified forms using smooth brush strokes that invoke an element of mystery. As she continues to combine Alaska Native symbols of spirituality, tribal landscapes, sacred animal spirits and ceremonial relics, it is her hope that their sacred nature and the strength and power of Alaska Native women may counteract the dominant imagery of Western religion.
In my portraits, I simplify form to the most essential to describe a realm of spiritual realities. I am consistently lured by the promise of transcendence and the possibility of discovery in each new piece of work.
~ Linda Infante Lyons