Phenomenal Alaska Inspires Artist Gretchen Sagan

Gretchen Sagan is the featured artist for November and December 2011 at the Alaska Native Arts Foundation in downtown Anchorage. Her show titled “Migration” explores the phenomenon of animal migration, “a phenomenon that is intrinsic to our land and cultures and extremely important to our life in the North,” Sagan said.

About her influences and sources of inspiration for Migration, Sagan said, “My own personal migrations provided the background to explore my own perceptions and real experiences as they relate to this phenomenon.”

Sagan has exhibited internationally in Hong Kong, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Estonia. She has participated in workshops and residencies in Estonia and Russia. Sagan received her bachelor’s of fine arts in printmaking in Estonian Academy of Arts in Tallinn, Estonia.

Tributary by Gretchen Sagan

As an artist and independent curator, she has organized exhibitions ranging from steamroller printmaking events to Virtual Subsistence, a contemporary Alaska Native art survey incorporating visual art, spoken word and performance art.

Her commissioned artwork can be seen at the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program at the University of Alaska Anchorage; Koahnic Broadcast Corporation in Albuquerque, New Mexico; and a portrait of Carl Marrs, former president of Cook Inlet Regional, Inc., at the CIRI offices.

“I would say curiosity, confusion and self-discovery inform my work,” Sagan said. “When I approach a subject or have an idea that I want to explore, it is usually one that everyone has a general perception of, but I have to make my individual interpretation of it and what it means to me, in relation to myself.”

She went on to say, “I spend a lot of time delving into something, trying to comprehend it from a wide-ranging to a very restricted view, always against the backdrop of my own personal experience. This kaleidoscopic way of looking at things probably shows that I am more committed to inquiry than resolution, and the pictures as a result are a nod to the process of self-exploration.”

She illustrated the cover of the award-winning book “The Cormorant Hunter’s Wife,” by King Island writer Joan Kane in 2009. Sagan also provided illustrations for the books “Arquitectonica de Voces: Federico Garcia Lorca y el Poema del Cante Jondo” by Christina Karageorgou-Bastea, and “Hourglass of Fate” by Stella Ivanova.

Her artwork can also be found in collections at the Art Veterans Administration Clinic, CIRI, First Alaskans Institute and in the Estonian Academy of Art’s permanent collection.
Tundra Wind by Gretchen Sagan
One of the exhibitions that Sagan curated was “Virtual Subsistence” at the now-defunct MTS Gallery in Anchorage, which posed the question to a group of visual and performance artists and writers, “What does subsistence mean in modern Alaska?” The show provided a forum for contemporary Alaska Native artists to articulate and exchange ideas about modern-day subsistence — the issue of remaining in existence — and its role in the context of our lives, work and identities.

Sagan has received awards from the Rasmuson Foundation, the Alaska State Council on the Arts and the Alaska Native Arts Foundation.

Visit the Alaska Native Arts Foundation for Gretchen Sagan’s First Friday opening and reception on Nov. 4, 2011 from 5:00–8:00 p.m.