Sonya Kelliher-Combs is an artist of Iñupiaq from the North Slope of Alaska, Athabascan from Interior Alaska, German, and Irish descent. Kelliher-Combs strives to create work through a contemporary lens that addresses the importance of traditional knowledge and carries cultural traditions and values of her people, including respect for land, animals, sea and fellow humans. Her experience with traditional women’s work has taught her to appreciate the intimacy of intergenerational knowledge and material histories. She draws from historical, familial, and cultural symbolism to form imagery that speaks about abuse, marginalization and the historical and contemporary struggles of Indigenous peoples.
Kelliher-Combs received a BFA from University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and an MFA from Arizona State University. She is a recipient of the Anchorage Cultural Council’s Mayor’s Awards for the Arts, the State of Alaska Governor’s Award for the Arts, Rasmuson Foundation Fellowship, Eiteljorg Fellowship, Native Arts and Cultures Artist Fellowship, and the Joan Mitchell Foundation’s Painters and Sculptors Grant. Her work can be found in numerous private and public collections including the National Museum of the American Indian, Anchorage Museum, Eiteljorg Museum, British Royal Museum, Institute of American Indian Art Museum of Contemporary Native Art, and Alaska State Museum.
Portrait photo by Shaun Cobs.