Thomas Stream: Winter
In November 2019 we present a solo exhibition by contemporary Aleut painter Thomas Stream (Sun’aq Aleut) who presents a new body of work focusing on birds in their winter habitats.
Aleut artist Thomas Stream was born in Kodiak, AK in 1941. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from Cornish School of Allied Arts in 1976. He began the Aleutian Painting series in 1996, an exploration of natural forms, vivid colors and delicate patterns. This series is encapsulated by the phrase, “We are still here,” a simple—yet poignant and powerful—statement that sums up Stream’s outlook on his heritage and his artwork.
Stream’s vivacious animals wear traditional Aleutian hunting hats. These represent nobility and status within Aleut society. The visors have been made out of steam-bent driftwood for millennia, serving both to shade the hunter’s face in his kayak and to spiritually connect the hunter to his prey. The shape of the visor echoes the Aleutian kayaks. In Stream’s iconography these visors celebrate the individual spirit of each animal, while connecting them to the Aleut people, who share the same environment.
The hunting visor has a couple of important uses. While in their kayaks, Aleutian hunters would wear hats and visors that funnel sound over the water into the hunters’ ears, enabling them to pinpoint an animal’s location. The hunters would decorate special hats for regalia purposes, showing their prowess and wealth with trade beads, colorful designs, and sea lion whiskers (the longest of which could only be captured by the most skilled of hunters). This wonderful symbol of a peaceful people is one that Thomas now uses on animals from every continent. It is his statement of how our environment is so closely and directly affected by our actions, and shows the common global bond that we have with nature.
Stream’s paintings make use of geometric designs and pointillist dots. At first glance, these dots and lines simply add depth to a jay’s wing or an orca’s tail. However, these spiraling forms are cultural techniques to visualize time and space—the addition of which lend a longevity and immortality to their subjects.