Seal Spirit Mask, 2023 by Bryan Amos, Cup’ig Culture wood, pigment 23” high x 19.5” wide x 4” deep
This hoop mask demonstrates the tradition of mask-making on Nunivak Island off the coast of Alaska, where the Cup’ig sub-dialect of the Yup’ik language is spoken. Masks, such as this one are danced in ceremonies to ask the spirits of animals to continue to feed the human community.
The ring encircling the central mask represents a “spiritual universe” or ellanguaqwhere animal spirit beings dwell. The stylized appendages in the encircling ring represent the appendages of the spirit animal, as well as other animal helpers, in this case a loon.
These masks were carved by men or women, but mostly by men. They range in size from small finger masks or maskettes to large masks hung from the ceiling or carried by several people. They are used to bring the person wearing it luck and good fortune in hunts. They are also worn during the long winter darkness dances and during storytelling.
Bryon Amos Artist Statement
“My father was Walter Amos (1920-2002). He was a driftwood mask maker, ivory mask maker, harpoon maker, and boat builder. My mother was Nona Amos (1926-2003). She was a basket weaver and created traditional regalia out of fur and sealskin, such as mukluks and seal gut parkas.
I create art in honor of my father and mother.
I was born on Nunivak Island in Mekoryuk, Alaska. I have been a walrus ivory carver, a driftwood mask maker, and a stone carver for over 45 years.” - Bryon Amos