‘State S(t)eal’ – The Rocky Mountain Collegian

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College student | Tri Duong

The final vision mural of Alaska Native artist Nicholas Galanin painted on the northwest wall of the Visual Arts Building on November 14.

Miles Buchan, Staff Reporter

Alaska Native artist Nicholas Galanin has designed a new mural featured on the north-facing wall of the Visual Arts Building at Colorado State University.

The artwork can be easily seen by passers-by as they walk down West Pitkin Street. The design was painted by a CSU undergraduate student as well as graduate students taking classes in the art and art history departments.

Aitor Lajarin-Encina, assistant professor of painting, and Sam Hamilton, an MFA student at Colorado State University, work to transfer the vision of a Native American artist to Alaska
Aitor Lajarin-Encina, assistant professor of painting, and Samantha Hamilton, an MFA student at Colorado State University, strive to transfer a vision of Alaska Native artist Nicholas Galanin to the northwest wall of the Visual Arts Building by Canvas Stadium October 18. (College student | Tri Duong)

Nicholas Galanin is a Tlingit and Unangax̂ artist who applies his creativity in various disciplines. Her work is grounded and connected to the land and researches the intersections of culture.

“‘State S

Galanin studied the imagery and visual language used in state seal designs to further evaluate this composition.

“I thought it was important to involve as many people as possible, and it’s been a great experience.” -Aitor Lajarin-Encina, CSU Assistant Professor of Painting

Additionally, Galanin considered the use of the term “Colorado native” as opposed to “Native American” when defining origin. He explained how defining yourself as a Colorado native can invalidate the meaning of the word “native,” which is used by many native Colorado residents.

“Often it is our indigenous peoples who stand on the other side of an imaginary line drawn to define history,” Galanin said.

The design is a covered wagon with a wheel clamp attached to one wheel and a ski mask – or balaclava – on either side of the wagon.

Nicholas Galanin's Last Vision Mural
The final vision mural of Alaska Native artist Nicholas Galanin painted on the northwest wall of the Visual Arts Building on November 14. (Collegian | Tri Duong)

Galanin pointed out that ski masks have a connection to the cinematic identification of thieves, and that the covered wagon is associated with property ownership, trespassing, and the continued occupation of settlers on Indigenous territory. The ski masks are painted with a pattern that references indigenous basketry from North America and Africa.

This mural is the first to be painted on the building itself and is part of a larger initiative.

Aitor Lajarin-Encina, assistant professor of painting at CSU, helped recruit students to participate in this initiative. Over the course of several weeks, he conducted several undergraduate courses in the art of mural making, as well as instructing four graduate students to assist in the creation of the project.

“The mural initiative is a long-term plan to incorporate murals into the Visual Arts Building,” Lajarin-Encina said.

He continued to make statements regarding the benefits of this ongoing effort to work with professional artists and students to create murals around the building.

Lajarin-Encina pointed out that every professional artist will be able to earn some money and showcase their creations, while students in the art department will be able to learn the basics of mural painting.

Lajarin-Encina also mentioned that the group working on this project included four graduate students as well as about 50 undergraduate students whose level of experience ranged from foundation to advanced.

“I thought it was important to involve as many people as possible, and the experience was great,” Lajarin-Encina said.

Throughout the creation of the project, Lajarin-Encina said the students talked, laughed and played music while covering the wall in his final design.

Contact Miles Buchan at [email protected] or on Twitter @BuchanMiles.

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