Thomas Stream: The Landscape Beckons

We are proud to present a three person exhibit featuring paper artist Nikki McClure (Non-Indigenous), painter Thomas Stream (Sun’aq Aleut) and jeweler Joan Tenenbaum (Non-Indigenous). These three Washington artists are deeply inspired by the landscapes and wildlife of the Northwest, and each renders their vision of this place in exquisite detail and skill.

Stream (Sun’aq Aleut) has long been inspired by the tragic story of young Aleut women who were taken from their homes by armed Russian traders in the 1700s and were ultimately killed in cold blood on the trip back to Siberia. In this exhibit, he honors their memory in one of the most moving and beautiful series of paintings he has ever produced. Select works from Stream’s archive will also be included in the exhibit, as well as small new works.

Exhibition Dates:

September 3, 2015 - September 26, 2015

Involved Artists:

Thomas Stream

Featured Works

Learn more about the “Elimination of Innocence” triptych by Thomas Stream, in his own words:

Early in 1762, Aleuts on Unga Island near the Alaska mainland responded to Russian assaults on their women by carrying out attacks that killed eight traders and wounded several more. The surviving Russians fled, returning to Siberia with a cargo of 900 sea otter pelts and 25 young Aleut girls, who met with a cruel fate.

When the ship reached the coast of Siberia, armed Russians escorted 14 of the girls ashore to pick berries. Two of them managed to escape, and an enraged officer then killed another girl on the spot. This so upset the rest of the girls that they jumped from the boat carrying them back to the ship and drowned. Unnerved, the Russian officer tried to eliminate all trace of the incident by ordering the remaining Aleut girls who had stayed on the ship thrown overboard. The crime later surfaced during an inquest into the abuses of the trading company that sponsored the journey.

Symbolism in “Elimination of Innocence – Tear Drop”

Twenty Five Aleut Girls of Unga Island, AK

  • Profile figure: virtue
  • Eye closed: freedom
  • Ear: hearing the call of the Creator
  • Earring: forget-me-not, the state flower of Alaska (culture remembrance)
  • Lips open: relinquishing life to the Creator
  • Butterfly: rebirth, resurrection
  • Hair: divided with one, two and three curls (painting sequins)
  • Cheek and chin marks: beauty and eligibility
  • Bird headdress with tear drop: nature mourning
  • Aleut hunting hat: noble people
  • Stem of berries: number of girls honored
  • Russian Orthodox cross: faith
  • Birds in flight: soul carriers
  • Pictographic figures at bottom: Unga girls

Birds depicted (25 in total):

Painting #1 – Magpie Teardrop

Magpies, yellow-rumped warbler

Painting #2 – Horned Grebe Teardrop

1st row: short-billed dowitcher, sooty shearwater, great yellowleg

2nd row: common eider, horned puffin, sandhill crane

3rd row: common merganser, red-face cormorant, harlequin duck, new gull, black oystercatcher

Painting #3 – Northern Pintail Teardrop

1st row: thick-billed murre, black albatross, bar-tailed godwit

2nd row: black scoter, whiskered auklet, emperor goose

3rd row: long-tail jaeger, arctic tear, fork-tail storm petrel