Reed began working with fishskin in 1986 after more than 20 years of weaving on a loom and creating woven hangings of textiles and wool. A former weaving instructor at University of Alaska Fairbanks, she was exposed to works in fishskin at an exhibition at the university in the mid-1980s and began to learn about fish skin vessels and containers made by Yup'ik Eskimos for generations.
Reed's own basket forms are sculpted from a variety of natural materials including fish skins (salmon, halibut, cod, red snapper and rainbow trout) and gut (hog casing), two materials traditional to Alaska Native craft work. Characterized more by an artistic rather than utilitarian approach, many of Reed's translucent baskets are meticulously formed with surface designs added to the gut form either by drawing or painting techniques or by layering natural materials such as leaves, seaweed, pressed ferns or flowers. Sheets of fishskin are stitched together and laid over armatures of willow, reed, cane or driftwood to form outer surfaces. Fins and tails play around the edges of her work.
The works in this exhibition reflect changing seasons. "Winter" pieces are made from halibut with contrasting hues in black and white that, for Reed, represent the dichotomies of life. The centerpiece for "summer" is a work titled Body Politic. Made from salmon skin, gut and bamboo, Body Politic resembles a fitted dress or bodice. Each basket in the summer series is laced together by fine gut but can be taken apart. The delicate bowls, or pods, in the "autumn" series are decorated with fins and tails from a variety of fish. "We are all the same," says Reed, "Just with different skins."
Reed's work has been exhibited extensively both nationally and internationally and has garnered numerous awards, among them juror's choice for the biennial crafts exhibition, Earth, Fire and Fibre in 2003 and 2001. She received a Western States Arts Federation fellowship in 1993. This is her first solo exhibition at the museum.
This exhibition was made possible with support from the Alaska State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. -- www.anchoragemuseum.org