STITCHING BEADS - Arctic Stories Change Hands

Jessie Kleemann, Nanna Anike Nikolajsen and Sonya Kelliher-Combs have engaged in a dialogue with both the past and the present to create works that merge traditions from Greenland and Alaska and pose topical questions about cultural changes.

10 February - 13 May

A thread stretches from one arctic coast to the other as a hand pulls beads over and under the oceans, dips under languages and stretches them into a pattern to a rhythmic beat. Each small sphere of glass like a letter – a cluster of signs that slowly takes form, a structure of meaning that weaves itself through time and space.

This exhibition weaves together shared histories of beading and storytelling from Alaska to Greenland. The three artists take inspiration from the material, performative and linguistic patterns of beading, embroidery and skin sewing, patterns that carry histories of women’s work, of cultural exchange and continuity and change. They invite the public to join these histories by themselves participating in interactive beading exercises and carrying on the traditions where this craft was often practiced. At the same time they open the concept of beading up beyond the cultural context to examine how this performance of repetitive mark-making itself creates a structure where histories shift between the material and the abstract.

Jessie Kleemann (GL)
Jessie Kleemann is an established performance artist who also works with installation, poetry, painting and other work that comes from the hand. Her performances develop intuitively and respond to the space and audience around her. She often delves into subjects surrounding the darker sides of Greenland society in order to visualize the ambivalence of the relationship that the people of Greenland can have towards their cultural inheritance. 

Nanna Anike Nikolajsen (GL-DK)
The rhythmic and structural undercurrent of beading as a form of language pulses through Nanna Anike Nikolajsen’s work. She de- and reconstructs language based on phonetic, graphic and material patterns, threading an unseen framework of meaning into existence by sewing between words on paper. An archaeology of meaning emerges, a space between the historical, discursive and cultural structures of articulation.

Sonya Kelliher-Combs (Inupiaq-Athabascan, Alaska)
Her work combines organic and inorganic materials like walrus gut, reindeer hide, gel medium and acrylic polymer, synthesizing the conventions and iconographies of painting, skin embroidery, installation, bow drill engraving and many other old and new traditions. With this synthesis Sonya’s work addresses the interdependence of human, animal and natural lifeworlds. Grounded in collective and individual memory as well as the embodied practice of art-making, her work creates a space for counter histories and secrets to be heard.