Sonya Kelliher-Combs was raised in the Northwest Alaska community of Nome. Her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree is from the University of AlaskaFairbanks and Master of Fine Arts is from Arizona State University. Through her mixed media painting and sculpture, Kelliher-Combs offers a chronicle of the ongoing struggle for self-definition and identity in the Alaskan context. Her combination of shared iconography with intensely personal imagery demonstrates the generative power that each vocabulary has over the other. Similarly, her use of synthetic, organic, traditional and modern materials moves beyond oppositions between Western/Native culture, self/other and man/nature, to examine their interrelationships and interdependence while also questioning accepted notions of beauty. Kelliher-Combs’ process dialogues the relationship of her work to skin, the surface by which an individual is mediated in culture.
She works objects in a roundabout way, but still keeps a sense of nostalgia and respect. She never avoids making rigorous compositions which act like tidy memories, "deranged" in order to bring up new narrations. Sometimes, more important bits, wooden ovals, brittle rings, strict angles, are discernible in varieties of shapes: a way of marking a territory that is building itself infinitely. Her physical implication, her movements, her art of handling all those retrieved pieces that are becoming themselves while creating something new. Her hesitations, modifications, affirmations are revealed in the character of her work. The solidity of her creations fix the margins of time, setting its frames and openings. She invites us to the representation of a personal geography.