Marks, a Tlingit artist whose work is unified by its subversive humor and inventive spins on traditional formline art, stretches Tlingit tradition by asserting it in new forms, and questions Western tradition by appropriating it in an unexpected manner.
If you feel the “Mona Lisa” could use a little improvement, “Alison Marks: One Gray Hair” may be a show you don’t want to miss.
Marks is a Tlingit artist, born and raised in Yakutat, Alaska, and now living in Juneau. Her work takes a variety of forms: photography, painting, textiles, multimedia installations. But it’s unified by its subversive humor and its inventive spins on traditional formline art, the distinctive ovoid/curvilinear style in which creatures of myth and legend are depicted in indigenous Northwest Coast art.
In the market for some formline emojis? Marks has a number you can choose from.
“Alison Marks: One Gray Hair”
11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursdays, through Feb. 4, 2018. Frye Art Museum, 704 Terry Ave., Seattle; free (206-622-9250 or www.fryemuseum.org).
Interested in an inflatable, fluttering tube-man totem pole? Marks has cobbled one together for you.
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There’s a satirical sensibility at play here, especially in “Cultural Tourism,” Marks’ totem pole/tube man mash-up, and her digital manipulations of Leonardo’s “Mona Lisa,” Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” and Gabriel von Max’s “Pause (At Rest),” in which she replaces the female subjects’ faces with Native American masks.
But Marks is doing more than poking fun. She’s stretching Tlingit tradition by asserting it in unlikely new forms. She’s also questioning Western tradition by appropriating it in an unexpected manner.
Her acrylic on canvas “The Messenger,” for instance, transforms a formline owl — the Tlingit equivalent to Hermes in Greek mythology — into a smartphone-technology QR bar code. Her digital prints on canvas — “BearEmoji,” “EagleEmoji,” “FrogEmoji,” “OwlEmoji,” “WolfEmoji” — put a tidy Tlingit spin on the shorthand vocabulary of social media.
Even her tampering with masterpieces by Leonardo and Vermeer has less to do with impudence than purposeful role reversal. The masks — created for Git-hoan, a Native American dance troupe Marks once performed with — represent the land otter that, in Northwest…