I am very pleased and honored to be in a special exhibition with my nephew Da-ka-xeen Mehner at the C.N. Gorman Museum at the UC Davis campus near Sacramento. Da-ka-xeen and I were invited by their Director, Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie and Curator Veronica Passalacqua to have a two-person exhibition, opening today.
Early this spring we were brainstorming about a title and I kept going back to our Uncle-Nephew connection, which is very special amongst our Tlingit customs. We all agreed that it should be Dakl’aweidi Kéet Gooshi Hít, Du Kaak, Keilk - Yee Wduwa eex’. In Tlingit it means Killer Whale Fin House, Uncle, Nephew - You are Invited.
As is with our formal time-honored custom, when introducing ourselves, we identify our House (hít) first, so people will know where we and our people are from. It is the Kéet Gooshi Hít, or Killer Whale Fin House in Klukwan, Alaska. It is one of the oldest clan houses on the entire Northwest Coast. It is where a lot of carvers go to see how Tlingit carving was done in ancient times, and some carvers have even called our clan houses in Klukwan The Cathedrals, because they have some of the oldest and most beautiful carvings in the Northwest. We are very proud that they are not in museums, and are a vital part of the living community.
Da-ka-xeen is an art professor, artist and photographer, who also happens to be my nephew. I cannot tell you how pleased this makes me, because Da-ka and I have been close since he was born. I can remember when he first went off to Art School at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe and how remarkably well he did there. He blossomed with his art and it was clear that he was in just the right place. It was gratifying to see that he had an entire community of fellow artists to learn and make art with. I was gratified again to see that he was so exceptionally gifted not only with photography, but with sculptural and installation work too. Da-ka has taken off with his career since then and his curriculum vitae is jam packed with exhibitions and awards. He is also an Art Professor and the new Director of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks Native Arts Center.
I think that perhaps what connects us in addition to our family lineage, is our approach to art. It is a no-holds barred, no holding back wrestling match with life. So life gives us a hearty body slam? Well, we give one right back, only we use our art as our method of expression. You, the viewer can tell us how well we've done in this match. I'm never quite sure how well I've scored, all I really know is that there is always more art to be made. I have new works from my Global Climate Crisis Fellowship included, and both of us have been shooting Kodachrome in homage to its eminent demise later this year. I have not yet had the opportunity to see Da-ka-xeen's new work, so some of you will have the privilege to see it before me.
Please join the C.N. Gorman Museum in welcoming this new art to the world. Da-ka-xeen and I are going to be at the museum sometime in mid-October to give our talks, so stay tuned!
Da-ka-xeen Mehner Website
C.N. Gorman Museum