Ken Anderson

Yukon Art Prize Artist Spotlight: Thought-provoking sculpture grounded in Tlingit traditions

ᓄᓇᐃᑦ ᓴᖅᑭᑎᑦᑎᓂᖅ ᓄᓇᖃᖅᑳᖅᓯᒪᔪᑦ ᐱᒋᔭᖏᑦ

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Ken Anderson, Mosquito Becomes Me (2018). COURTESY YUKON PRIZE FOR VISUAL ARTS.

Born and raised in Whitehorse, Yukon, Ken Anderson (Khàtinas.àxh) is a carver of Tlingit and Scandinavian ancestry. A member of the Teslin Tlingit Council, he is a largely self-taught artist who roots his practice in traditional Tlingit styles and forms, working with wood, metal, stone, and snow.

Narrative plays a strong role in Anderson’s work, from the intention behind his pieces to their subject matter, as in Raven Transformation. He draws from Tlingit stories, especially those he heard from his grandmother — and just as these stories encourage reflection, Anderson hopes that those who view his work will seek insight into the history and culture he’s representing.

Anderson has produced powerful commissioned sculptures, including a monument he designed in 2018 honouring former students of the Whitehorse Indian Mission School. Near the water, nine wooden stools—each one unique, each one representing a different language group spoken by the students — surround a circle of concrete, etched with an image of the school. Where a tenth stool might have stood is an empty space meant for anyone who wasn’t a part of those language groups, inviting them to join the circle in contemplation. At the end of 2019, Anderson also carved a podium for the Yukon Arts Centre acknowledging the traditional peoples of the land, Kwanlin Dün First Nation and the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council. Made of yellow cedar and standing four feet tall, the piece will be used at events and other gatherings hosted at the Centre.

Recently, Anderson participated in the collaborative project called To Talk With Others, which ran at the Yukon Arts Centre from December 2018 to February 2019 before touring to Dawson City, YT, Victoria, BC, and Penticton, BC.

Credit: This video was originally published by the Yukon Arts Centre on July 27, 2021. COURTESY YUKON ARTS CENTRE.