Autumn 2017

Special Offer on Select Thomas Stream Original Paintings

Stonington Gallery has proudly represented the paintings of contemporary Aleut painter Thomas Stream for thirty-five years. Our exhibit schedule and storage capacity is such that not all his wonderful works can be on display at once, and we want them to be in homes where they will be treasured as they deserve! Therefore, we are offering a select collection of original framed paintings from past years at a rare discounted price: 20% off the framing and an additional 20% off the painting.

Thomas Stream’s gouache paintings are a studied and deeply felt tribute to his Aleut heritage and a joyful expression of love to his people. The history of the Aleutian Islands and the Aleuts is a great source of honor and pride for Stream, mixed with sadness at the tragic clash of East and West throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

Stream’s bright palette and the curvilinear, geometric designs in his painting are very much inspired by the traditional painted steam-bent hats made and worn by the Aleut hunters at sea in their kayaks. These hats are to Stream what the spindle whorl is today’s Coast Salish artists: the object that represents the very core or spirit of their people. It is an object so specific to the industry and thus survival of the culture, that it at once sums up the accumulated knowledge of a people and their mastery of the skills required to flourish in a specific environment.
To learn more about the Aleut hunting hats and Stream’s inspiration, scroll to the bottom of this page.

Exhibition Dates:

September 29, 2017 - December 25, 2017

Involved Artists:

Thomas Stream

Featured Works

About Aleut Hunting Hats:

Photo of Unangax hunter wearing a chief’s hat (highly decorated hunting hats) and gut parka. Umnak Island, Aleutian Islands, 1909. From Waldemar Jochelson, “History, Ethnology, and Anthropology of the Aleut.”

For Thomas Stream, these noble hats embody the resourcefulness, skill, spirituality and artistry of his people, the Sun’aq Aleut. The Aleutian Island archipelago stretches twelve hundred miles from the southwest corner of Alaska, across the Bering Sea to Russia. The Aleutians are a volcanic chain linking North America to Asia and consist of three hundred islands. The islands are as beautiful as they are remote. They are windswept and barren, with most vegetation growing no higher than twelve inches. It can take a tree two hundred years to reach a height of five feet.  Most everything that sustained the Aleut came from the sea, and what came from the sea was fished or hunted by men in their bidarkas or kayaks. Survival depended upon a successful hunt and the Bering Sea/ North Pacific poses formidable risks.

The Aleut enlisted the aid of spiritual powers to help insure a successful and safe hunt. When an Aleut Hunter was preparing for the hunt he would put on this hunting hat, which have been made in the region for over two thousand years. The hat was constructed from split, hand-worked and steam-bent driftwood planks, and adorned with sea lion whiskers, walrus ivory, and trade beads. A man’s hat was as important as his boat and hunting tools. The unique shape of the hats offered protection from sun and rain, and possibly amplified sounds over the water. It was painted with his personal designs and symbols, and it was believed that the hat enabled the hunter to spiritually transform into his prey. Some anthropologists believe that the hats were essentially used as masks, to hide the hunter’s human identity from the animals. In ancient Aleut belief, humans and animals were once in the same family, and at some point they split off from each other.

The hat was seen as a way to connect the hunter to the prey, and to lull the prey into complacency so the bidarka could draw closer. The hats were also worn during ceremony.
Thomas Stream’s paintings are famed for their color and lines. The opaque pigments and flowing, undulating lines and patterns reference the painting style on the ancient hats. The Aleut culture was devastated in the 19th and 20th centuries due to enslavement by Russian, European and American fur traders hunting for sea otters. Much Aleut culture was lost. In his art, Thomas Stream’s use of the hat honors his people, their culture and their eternal connection to the their homeland. Thomas says, “I show love and honor through color and line”.