Eugene Alfred was born in 1970, in Mayo, Yukon, Canada. He is of Northern Tutchone and Tlingit ancestry and belongs to the crow clan from the Selkirk First Nation of Pelly Crossing, Yukon. Hailing from the mountainous grandeur of the Yukon, Eugene Alfred builds striking new imagery from the material culture of his ancestry. Both a sculptor in wood and a silkscreen printmaker, Alfred explores exciting new ground in Northwest Coast art.
Alfred is descended from multiple generations of artists. His grandmother was particularly well known for her bead-work, which was exhibited in both galleries and community shows. As a child, the artist spent most of his summers with his grandparents, “living on the land: hunting, fishing, and gathering food.” It was a period, he says, that felt both stimulating and peaceful. Alfred also spent considerable time with his Uncle Martin – an artist confined to a wheel-chair who was continually drawing. Alfred’s uncle was an extremely accomplished draftsman, and the young artist was fascinated with watching him work, and memorizing his technique for later translation into his own images.
Alfred remembers learning to draw on cardboard when he was in kindergarten. Since his family didn’t have much money, he began to make his own toys as a child – carving wood into trucks, boats, and even small human figures. Looking back now, he feels that the tranquil atmosphere of his grandparents’ home helped him develop the patience needed to be a carver, especially when large projects demand monumental commitments of time.
Alfred’s works have achieved an impressive international stature – being displayed in eminent public institutions, like Canada’s Senate building, and in esteemed private collections, including that of the Emperor of Japan. His work is continually extending its reach to a wider audience, as his imagery expands dynamically into new forms of Northwest Coast art with a postmodern pulse.