Melissa Shaginoff is part of the Udzisyu (caribou) and Cui Ui Ticutta (fish-eater) clans from Nay'dini'aa Na Kayax (the log over the river or Chickaloon Village). She grew up on the southern coast of Alaska where she learned the lifeways of her cousins the Dena’ina peoples. Shaginoff is currently the Curator of Contemporary Indigenous Art and Culture at the Anchorage Museum. As both an Artist and Curator her work revolves around identity and representation. Working within institutions Shaginoff sees her work as an act of making space. Space for others, space for change and space to be present. She has participated in the Sheldon Jackson Museum Artist Residency in Sitka, Alaska as well as the Island Mountain Arts Toni Onley Artist Project in Wells, British Columbia. Shaginoff has work collected by the Institute of American Indian Arts, the Palmer Museum and the Pratt Museum.
As an artist, as a curator, as a woman and as an Indigenous person I find myself inundated with questions. Questions that either challenge or beg for explanation regarding my existence. I am asked how can create art and craft, how can I be an expert and unbiased, how can I be a woman and respectful and how can I be Indigenous and modern? Western culture values the idea that dominance is best. That being more, rather than in balance, is success. As an Indigenous individual, a woman, a curator and an artist I create knowing that western culture is will always question my existence within their colonial system. I represent a conflict in my artwork that should prescribe my failure, but I am not alone. Through painting, drawing, collage, screen-printing and material embellishment I address this shared experience and my personal dissonance felt in working within and against western culture.