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Statue of Liberty Doll Sealskin, velour, cotton, rabbit, simulated sinew, thread, wire, Cup’ik, Maker: Rosalie Paniyak, UA 2001-008-0003

Back in May, I made a stop at the Museum of the North at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Lots of interesting stuff in there, but this one piece in particular caught my attention. The information card next to Miss Liberty had a nice note from the museum director. It reads as follows:

“I’m a Native New York who 13 years ago left the big city for the paradise of Alaska. Rosalie Paniyak’s Statue of Liberty doll is, for me, one of the funniest works of art in the entire museum, and the embodiement of what I left and what I have now.

“When I lived in lower Manhattan, my dog and I would walk along the Hudson River.There was Ms. Liberty, tall, strong, and noble, an image that took itself very seriously. Moreover, it welcomed people to a Very Important City.

“Rosalie’s Statue of Liberty is soft, with a face that is anything but dignified. She holds her torch askew. She is the Cup’ik version of an American icon, humorous and irreverent.

“After I enjoy its visual irony, what does this doll say to me? On the lighter side, that New Yorkers’ sense of self-importance is a bit silly. And more seriously, that this privilege of liberty has not always been enjoyed by everyong, such as Native Americans.”

Aldona Jonaitis

Museum Director