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Yupi’k Mask

Yukon River Delta, Alaska

Carved wood and pigments
Circa 1870-1880

Height: 10 ¾ in. (27.5 cm)

Ex collection Mark Tobey (1890-1976)
Ex private collection, Seattle

Published: PAD – Paris Tribal 2016

Price: on request

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The Subarctic region inhabited by the Yup’ik Eskimo in Alaska is well supplied with land and sea resources allowing for much time that could be devoted to a full ceremonial life. After freezeup in the winter, performance cycles were undertaken that were important to maintaining proper human, animal and spirit-world interactions. These ritual and shamanic ceremonies took place in the Men’s House (qasaiq). During masked ceremonies, shamans, under the protection of their animal-guides entered into a trance to communicate with the spirit world.
Before leaving on a hunt, men also had to observe a certain number of dictates to assure themselves of the beneficial support of tutelary spirits, the « masters » of game animals.
This mask, dating from the 1870s-1880s comes from the Yukon Delta region. It is in the form of an anthropomorphic female face framed by lateral flippers. It represents the spirit of the seal (inua in the Yup’ik language).
As early as the 1950s, this mask was part of the collection of the artist Mark Tobey (1890-1976), the « Old Master of Young American Painting », who influenced Jackson Pollock among others.
With its lively spirit, the mask is a touching evocation of the shamanic voyage, bearing dreams, inspiration and poetry.