KBBI’s Emilie Springer met with the current resident artist at Bunnell, Amber Webb.
Alaskan artist Amber Webb is finishing a two-week residence at Bunnell Street Arts Center and will be
presenting a show of her work on Friday May 6 from 5-7 with an artist’s talk at 6 pm. I met with her in
the gallery where she has a table of her work set up early this week to hear her perspective on
inspiration for her art.
“I'm Amber Webb. I'm an artist from Curyang, Alaska. Some folks know that as Dillingham and I live
in Aleknagik. I've been here for a week and I'm here for one more week doing this residency.”
She explains what her art looks like and the context of what it portrays.
“I do pictorials storytelling sometimes and then I do these figures of round women round native
women. They just make me really happy. They're like a way to communicate that it's okay to take up
space and also a way to put women in a contemporary context and at the same time tie them to these
old stories as well. So, I really want to communicate through this whole body of work that native people
are still here and that our culture is still alive and still growing.”
I ask where the stories come from.
“Some of the stories come from books, like Ann Fienup-Riordon’s collections or stories people have
told me over the years and then some of them are stories of things that have happened recently and
then some of the work is like referencing how we maybe use different tools or have different things
than we did, you know 300 years ago, but that those things have so thoroughly become a part of our
culture that they're part of like contemporary indigenous identity like the Ukrainian head scarves, which
is also kind of little bit of a show of solidarity with Ukraine as well.”
In this case, she is referring an image of two salmon decorated in bright flowers like the scarves.
Because of the way she refers to the images as “visual stories,” we talk a little bit about the story
structure of the work and in this case we’re talking about an image of a man surrounded by fish.
“Some of them are almost like prayers that I'm meditating on. In that one, for instance, I’ meditating
about the full fishing season. So I'm thinking of a guy that is going to YUPIK TERM, he's he's going to take
a steam bath after he's been out fishing. I kind of I wanted it to look like the fish were all attracted to
him and giving themselves to him because that's a concept in Yupik culture that the animals that we
harvest for subsistence offer themselves to us, offer their lives to us. And that's why it's so important
that we don't waste anything and and nowadays a lot of our families are heavily dependent on
commercial fishing as well. Fishing is a source of pride for a lot of indigenous people. Then also being a
good provider is also a really important Yupik value. So, that’s where I was going with that particular
The background material for the images is wood and I ask her to tell me about the material she uses to
“I usually use a combination of sharpies and India ink, so I'll draw the outline of the images with like a
fine point Sharpie or an ultra-fine point Sharpie and then I'll go in with a brush in India ink and cover
certain areas with black ink but I do have some splashes of color here and there especially some of the
most recent floral work that really came out of this residency. That was that's the first time I've done
that kind of floral work.”
Come down to Bunnell to share Amber’s bountiful women and fish as many of our own local people
begin to prepare for the summer salmon season.