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506 Warren Street
June/July 2006

Sonya Kelliher-Combs:


Nicole Fiacco Gallery is pleased to announce a solo exhibition of artist Sonya Kelliher-Combs titled Secrets.  Having been included in major group exhibitions at the Museum of Art and Design, New York, NY and the Heard Museum, Phoenix, AZ, this exhibition will mark Ms. Kelliher-Combs’ solo debut within the continental United States.  The exhibition will include recent work from the Secrets series, where the artist explores the nature of the secret; its transparency, vocabulary and manifestation. On view will be mixed-media paintings, ceiling installations and three- dimensional works that use diverse materials including human hair, fiber, sewn hide, quills and beads.

In a statement granted for a recent review of Ms. Kelliher-Combs’ solo exhibition at the Anchorage Museum of Art and History published in the Anchorage Daily News, David Revere McFadden, Chief Curator of the Museum of Art and Design in New York, NY states that ‘(She) uses unexpected materials in innovative ways to create an emotional and spiritual mood around her pieces that I really respond to.  They have to do with memories or traces of things that have gone on.’  In the exhibition essay published for Kelliher-Combs’ 2004 solo exhibition at the Anchorage Museum of History and Art in Alaska, Lisa Favero of Harvard University writes:

Her work is engaged as much with art as with craft, with the past as much as the present or the future, and it oscillates between cultures and vantage points:  Native and non-Native, Western and non-Western, Eskimo and Indian.  If the organic form and line of her paintings and drawings relate to a tradition of Euro-American abstraction, they resonate just as profoundly with archaic or modern Alaska Native ornamentation and crafts, such as Eskimo tattoos or late twentieth century Athabaskan beadwork designs.  Some pieces could be equally qualified as sewing as much as painting or sculpture.  Her use of nearly any material, whether beads, gut, fur or a synthetic product, can often simultaneously be termed domestic, industrial, conventional and avant-garde.

Referring to her Alaskan Native cultural background, Lisa Favero states that “In transforming traditions into one another Kelliher-Combs displaces the common conception of art as a declarative expression of ethnicity.  The removal of comfortable, stable and distinct ethnic traits likewise displaces viewers who seek the stereotypes that this work does not offer.”

Sonya Kelliher-Combs lives and works in Anchorage, Alaska.  The artist received her M.F.A from Arizona State University and has exhibited with frequency in Alaska since 1990.  Ms. Kelliher-Combs was recently included in Changing Hands 2: Art without Reservation, an important group exhibition of contemporary Native American art at the Museum of Art and Design in New York, NY.  In 2004, Kelliher-Combs exhibited in a solo show at the Anchorage Museum of History and Art.  Ms. Kelliher-Combs’ work has been reviewed with frequency in The Anchorage Daily News and The Arizona Republic. Other writings on the work of Ms. Kelliher-Combs have been included in Museum Today, Shade Magazine and several exhibition catalogues.

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