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Christine Babic: When She Dies, You Too Will Die


Center on Contemporary Art (CoCA) Pioneer Square
Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through Dec. 23 2016


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When Christine Babic was 2 years old, an oil tanker struck a reef in the waters just beyond her fishing village and spilled so much crude oil that you can still find it today in some places if you simply dig up the top layer of earth. That was the Exxon Valdez. Babic was born and raised in Cordova, Alaska, on the land of her Suqpiaq ancestors. Her grandmother had been kidnapped from there, put in boarding school, and forbidden from speaking her native language or practicing her own culture by the US government. She settled in Seattle, but her daughter, Babic’s mother, returned to Cordova to raise Babic—where in 1989 mass death visited the marine life there and the local economy was instantly devastated. Babic grew up in a family suddenly plunged into a struggle to make ends meet. Two of her other grandparents died of cancer after working intensely on cleaning up the spill. In the midst of all this, Babic’s family were artists and craftspeople. She learned animal skin sewing and beading from her mother and her aunt, and devoted herself to traditional Native dances. The family went every year to sell some of their art at a fair in Santa Fe, where the mostly white crowd bought their state-certified-authentic-Native pieces. Alaska certifies “real” Native art with a designation you have to apply for, called the Silver Hand. The Silver Hand, the Exxon Valdez, the boarding school—they are all related, all aspects of what she calls “termination in disguise,” some less disguised than others. As an adult, Babic left Cordova to earn her degree at the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, but she did not leave it behind. She moved to Seattle a year ago and continues to return to Cordova, especially to fish with her family. And she is a contemporary artist endowed with training in indigenous art, dance, and subsistence skills, and a canny capacity for divining, reinterpreting, and merging meanings and materials from across cultures. This month at the Center for Contemporary Art, Babic has her first solo show in Seattle, the culmination of a residency she did in a shipping container of CoCA’s in Georgetown—the perfect environment to work with animal hides and skins, she said. Titled When She Dies, You Too Will Die, in reference to a prophecy about the relationship between a people and their land, the exhibition will include works made from the skins and hides of seals, rabbits, and caribou; from the dresses Babic wore as a young dancer, the American flags she took with her on a recent trip to stand with the protesters of the Dakota Access pipeline at Standing Rock, North Dakota, and her grandmother’s clothing; and a mask she carved from cottonwood. Meet Christine Babic. JEN GRAVES

Center on Contemporary Art (CoCA)

114 Third Avenue S, Seattle, WA 98104
Hours: Thursday-Saturday

Venue Hours
  • Thursday-Saturday
Event Times
This event is in the past.
  • Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through Dec. 23 2016