An Evening with 2022 Forge Project Fellow Ilegvak
October 14, 2022
Friday, October 14, 2022, at 5:30 PM ET, join Forge Project 2022 Fellow Ilegvak, Peter Williams (Yup’ik) for a presentation on his current work and process of fish-skin sewing.
Yup’ik culture embodies reciprocity between the human, plant, animal and spiritual worlds. Ilegvak assumes personal responsibility for this reciprocity by practicing an endangered Alaska Native art form severely disrupted by settler colonialism: skin sewing. Mastery of this craft enabled his ancestors to survive in an unforgiving climate, utilizing the potential of its animals beyond their rich value as a food source. Colonial ecocide and forced assimilation paused the intergenerational transmission of this knowledge for skins of various species we formerly worked with, particularly fish. Ilegvak is now in the process of rediscovering this once life-sustaining craft and adapting it into culture-sustaining art and advocacy.
Fish skin sewing was traditionally used by Alaska Natives to construct functional clothing and items of transport such as hoods, mittens, parkas, bags and baskets. The new form Ilegvak is evolving, which he likens to handmade fish skin “paintings,” is more conceptually and aesthetically driven rather than functional although he draws inspiration from the clothing and techniques from his ancestors. He creates these abstract paintings by stitching scraps into art tapestries and stretching them over a canvas stretcher bar. The aesthetics are simple, until the viewer notices the unusual texture. A closer look leads to dialogue about the materials, the story of their becoming, and their critical implications for Indigenous cultures. The start-to-finish intimacy of his work underlines the ethos of Indigenous practice: Our environment and its inhabitants are not to be treated as disposable resources, but as critical relationships.
This event is free and open to the public. A reception with refreshments will follow the talk.
As COVID-19 continues to be active in our communities, proof of COVID-19 vaccination and masks will be required for all who visit Forge Project or Forge Project hosted events. If you are feeling ill or have been recently exposed to either COVID-19 or MPVX, we ask that you stay home.
Ilegvak, Peter Williams (Yup’ik) is a culture bearer, artist, designer, filmmaker, and educator based in Sheet'ká (Sitka), Alaska. His hand-sewn works repurpose skin from self-harvested traditional foods, bridging worlds of Indigenous art, fashion, and subsistence. Ilegvak has completed artist residencies at Santa Fe Art Institute and Institute of American Indian Arts, and has guest lectured and/or taught skin sewing at Yale University, Stanford University, UCLA, Portland Art Museum, and Alaska State Museum, among others.
Ilegvak’s art has been shown at museums and galleries across North America. His presentations at New York Fashion Week and Fashion Week Brooklyn in 2015 and 2016 led to profiles in The Guardian and The New York Times. He produced the documentary Harvest:Quyurciq, which received a Native Peoples Action project grant. In 2018-2020 Ilegvak became a Cultural Capital Fellow, a Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellow, and received an Individual Artist Award Project Grant from Rasmuson Foundation. In 2021 he received an NDN Collective Radical Imagination Grant and, in 2022, United States Artists Fellowship.