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Arctic Arc

Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Story by Matthew Smith

In this Profile
(Top) The half of "Arctic Arc" in Naukan, Russia; (Middle) The blue hands of "Arctic Arc" in Wales, AK; (Bottom) Wales artist Joe Senungetuk and family in 2011.

If you’ve ever traveled to the community of Wales, you may have seen the sculpture of the giant blue hands. It’s called “Arctic Arc,” and on a hilltop to the south of town sits two massive wooden hands that meet at the wrist. Between those hands is a metal bird, its wings spread wide, as if it’s about to fly across the Bering Strait.

A collaboration between Wales-born artist Joe Senungetuk and Michigan sculptor David Barr, the birds and hands face west for a reason: about 60 miles across the strait is another sculpture, in Naukan, Russia. On the Russian side of the strait is a huge metal umiak, a traditional native skin boat. The boat crests a green hilltop as if it were a wave, and looks ready to sail across the strait and on to Wales. On each side of the umiak, open hands reach toward the prow. Like the hand waving west and the bird flying toward Russia, the umiak’s hands reach across the strait to it's companion piece on the other side.

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