Summer Ptarmigan Mask, 2020 by Terresa White, Yup'ik ceramic, pigment 13" high x 10" wide x 5" deep
Ptarmigan is courageous in its full color of summer. Together with its yua (human animal spirit), it looks head-on into the day.
"The faces of my masks and the gestures of my figures emerge from memories—those passed to me by my ancestors and my own. They are shadowy and I sense them dimly until they appear, recognizable at last, through my working of clay. I am inspired by Yup'ik stories of transformation. My work transforms me, brings me closer to my Granny's ways of knowing and to the Alaskan village life she left as a young woman with my mother.
I am Yup’ik Eskimo and French Canadian. My grandmother’s family name is Clara Konig. Her mother, Helen Akfakorak Konig, was born in the Kuskokwim River region near what is today the Alaskan village of Bethel.
My work is contemporary, exploring traditional themes and their interplay, confluence and divergence with my urban life. I begin working clay for each piece with no more than a dusky shadow in mind of what will materialize. When the person of each mask or figure finally comes into view, I experience delight and relief similar to spotting down the road a relative who has safely traveled a long way for a visit. In fact, when a piece is finished, I often whisper to it, “There you are! Hello!”
"My artistic process continues to be healing medicine for my family and myself, transforming some of the suffering and confusion of displacement into connection and opportunity. I hope my masks and figures reveal to viewers something of their meanings, reminding them at the very least of their resilient animal bodies, their inborn abilities to greet the sweet moments in life with full guiltless pleasure and the dark moments with courage and transformation." - Terresa White