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Photo of Nicholas Galanin

Photo Courtesy of Don Arnold/WireImage/Getty Images

Native American Heritage Month: Get to Know 8 Contemporary Indigenous Artists
By Cora Anderson
November 16, 2021

November is Native American Heritage Month — a time to elevate Indigenous voices and celebrate the diverse cultural traditions and histories of Native Americans and Alaska Natives. It’s also an important time to recognize the significant contributions Indigenous groups have made in enriching the cultural landscape of the United States. Visual art is just one of these contributions — one that continues to offer a powerful way to express and preserve cultural values and give context to traditions that make each group unique.

To mark this important observance, we’re sharing a collection of some of the top Indigenous artists working in the U.S. today. Each of the creators you're about to meet comes from a different North American tribal nation, and each has developed an individual style worth honoring. While some masterfully carry on traditional art styles and forms passed down by elders, others have developed their own visions of what it means to be Indigenous in modern times — and all of their works are expressions of heritage and voices speaking important truths.

Nicholas Galanin is an artist whose work is refreshingly hard to pinpoint. An Alaskan creator of Tlingit and Unangax╠é ancestry, he expresses himself through sculpture, music, jewelry making and any other technique he chooses to harness to express what he's feeling at the moment. His synthesis of methods exists in part because, for Galanin, both Indigenous art and his personal artistic vision are constantly evolving.

As Galanin himself puts it, “My process of creation is a constant pursuit of freedom and vision for the present and future. I use my work to explore adaptation, resilience, survival, dream, memory, cultural resurgence, and connection and disconnection to the land.” By uniting both traditional and contemporary styles, Galanin's art is as fascinating as it is unique.

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