An art piece made from a rather unusual animal is occupying Western for the next couple weeks.
“When people go around the corner and see the polar bear for the first time, they usually just stand there in silence for a little while,” said Taylor Glennon, Viking Union Gallery Director.
The taxidermied polar bear, shot by a sports hunter in Alaska in the 60s, is part of an art exhibition called “We Dreamt Deaf” by Pacific Northwest artist Nicholas Galanin. Galanin gave a lecture in Fraser Hall entitled “Alien Tradition” on Jan. 12.
Two of Galanin’s sculptures are on display in the gallery, the other being a wolf pelt called “Inert.” Both animals are fully taxidermied from their heads to their waists, but drag half of their rug-like bodies behind.
The main concepts behind the sculptures are the inability to progress and humanity’s infringement on the environment, Galanin said in his lecture.
The showcases also reference the alien tradition of supremacy, manifest destiny and disregard which Europeans brought to Indigenous land, according to the Associated Students.
Galanin started his career as an artist after working in a national park in Sitka, Alaska. He was told he couldn’t draw native imagery during his breaks, so he quit. He has worked in the creative industry since.
“To me, I think this is incredibly powerful and very important artwork. It is not the type of exhibition that has ever really been in the VU gallery, at least for the past couple years.” Glennon said. “It is really dealing with social justice issues and environmental issues, which isn’t normally attributed to art that’s in a student-run gallery,” Glennon said.
Senior Maggie Carr, a studio art major, said the expressions of the vulnerable species selected for this exhibition make an impactful effect on viewers.
“It is a very enlightening experience to actually look at something and almost feel like it is looking back at you,” Carr said. “You feel like it’s almost accusing you: ‘you have done this to me.’”
Shishmaref, the town where the polar bear was shot, is slowly eroding into the ocean from climate change, Galanin said.
“We are not really paying attention to our impact on the environment. The village is possibly going to have to evacuate because of this,”Galanin said.
Galanin’s solo exhibition, “We Dreamt Deaf.” runs from Jan. 9-26 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the VU Gallery, room 507.