Sealskin, wool, bird quills, animal membranes, furexpand_more
The Patricia and Peter Frechette Endowment for Art Acquisitionexpand_more 2017.31
The Unangan and Alutiiq live on Kodiak Island and the lower part of Prince William Sound, in what is now Alaska. The woman who made this vest in the early 1800s used materials available in the Arctic, embellishing the basic sealskin garment with red trade wool, bird quills, membranes that add color and texture, and other animal and bird parts. The zigzag designs on both sides are made from bird quills sewn onto the hide with sinew. This small vest was probably worn by a child, most likely for celebratory occasions. It is a rare item. The only other known vest in this style is now in the National Museum of Finland.
This rare, visually stunning vest is in remarkable condition and still retains all the embellishments its maker added to create its bold, geometric design. It offers the viewer the chance to understand the ingenuity of the Unangan/Alutiiq women who gathered a variety of natural materials to realize their vision for the garment. It is the first example of clothing from an Arctic woman artist to enter Mia’s collection.