Ism No. 1
digital photographic print
36.5 x 19.5 inches
92.7 x 49.5 cm
Edition of 10
Courtesy of the artist and Peter Blum Gallery, New York
In the work Ism No. 1, Galanin juxtaposes iconic images from Tlingit and European traditions.
A photograph of a replica Tlingit shaman’s mask is superimposed onto a crucifixion image from Christianity. The shaman’s mask functions as a connection to the supernatural world or a concrete connection to spirit, while the Christ figure is representative of Christian belief in physical connection to the Christian god through a human body.
As Galanin describes, “During colonization and settlement, Christian missionaries functioned as a wedge used to split apart Indigenous communities. They forcibly replaced Indigenous creation stories, knowledge, and connection of spirituality in bodily experience with stories of suffering, as the deserved result of evil ways of non-Christian living. Missionaries and residential schools violently attempted to destroy culture, language, and spiritual connection of Indigenous people to the land. The shaman’s mask over the crucified Christ can be read as theft of Indigenous culture and experience by a non-Indigenous community. This is also a strategy to use iconography understandable to a Eurocentric culture to make clear the level of suffering endured by carriers of Indigenous culture, and to elevate the importance and significance of the shaman’s mask to this audience.”