Article Overview: Alaska Artists
Far from the Art galleries and Museums in New York and Paris, there is the unassuming magical feast of artistic expression that is Alaska. Alaska Artists may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the 49th state. Hopefully, that will change after you learn more about Alaska artists. We will delve into the lives and works of a few of Alaska’s more prominent artists who have significantly contributed to the art scene in the Last Frontier.
This article will briefly introduce you to a few Alaska artists; there are too many to profile in just one article. As we learn more and experience the works of other Alaska artists, we will write additional articles and hopefully do a few studio visits and interviews showcasing today’s talented Alaska artists.
Why Trust Us When Reading About Alaska Artists
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My Experience with Alaska Artists
It’s no wonder I love Alaska artists; I spent years attending Art School before traveling to Alaska for the first time. I made my first trip to Alaska nearly 15 years ago, almost a decade after completing my studies. Every vacation with my family includes visiting museums, galleries, or sculpture gardens. So, art is still a big part of my life, and so is Alaska.
While traveling through Alaska, I quickly started seeing local artists work everywhere. While working in Homer, I frequented the Fireweed Gallery to see and purchase the work done by Alaska artists. Last year, while in Anchorage, I went to the Anchorage Museum, an impressive location that should not be missed. From the famous works of Sydney Laurence and Alvin Amason to the t-shirt-laden art of Ray Troll. Keep reading to get a brief introduction to some of these Alaska artists.
Table of Contents: Alaska Artists
Table of contents
- Why Trust Us When Reading About Alaska Artists
- My Experience with Alaska Artists
- Alaska Artists
- Alaska Artists You Should Know
- Where to See Alaska Artist’s Work
- Map of Where to See Alaska Artists work
- Alaska Artists Conclusion: Celebrating Diversity in Alaskan Artistry
- More Alaska Articles
The Alaska artists’ narrative is tied to its awe-inspiring landscapes and unique lifestyle. From the icy fjords of the Inside Passage to the commanding presence of Denali, Alaska artists find themselves immersed in an ever-changing palette of colors, textures, and atmospheres. Alaska’s natural magic and the untamed spirit of its residents all contribute to a canvas that sparks the imagination of these Alaska artists.
Alaska’s long history of art is apparent on the shores of its land, carved into rocks by generations past. Today, vibrant and exciting contemporary artists are working in Alaska. We will look at artists born in Alaska, those who moved to Alaska, and those who made art about Alaska. Alaska is home to so many artists and inspires even more.
Alaska Artists You Should Know
The following are some of the most prominent Alaska artists who were either born in Alaska, or were greatly influenced by the states majesty.
Alvin Eli Amason: Alutiiq sculpture and painter
Alvin Eli Amason (Born 1948) is an Alutiiq (Sugpiaq) artist living in Anchorage, Alaska. He is known for his painting and sculpture work. If you’ve spent time in Alaska, you have probably seen his artwork at the Anchorage Aiport or other public buildings. His bear paintings are particularly identifiable due to his unique style.
As a young man, Alvin moved to the Southwest, where he studied art at Arizona State University. He later taught at the Navajo Community College before returning to Alaska to teach in Fairbanks. Amason has spent much of his career teaching and promoting Native art while still creating his own, which he exhibits worldwide.
Next time you’re at the Anchorage Museum looking at Alaska artists, find Alvin’s tryptic titled Everything I Love is Here (it’s in the same room as the colorful dancing bears).
Rie Munoz: Juneau’s Water Color Magician
Rie Munoz (1921-2015) was born in California and moved to the Netherlands as a child before returning to the States before WWII began. Her parents couldn’t return to the United States for seven years, leaving Rie and her sibling to live with family friends. Rie Munoz moved to Alaska as an adult, living remotely and teaching. She became famous for her whimsical watercolor paintings depicting heartwarming scenes from everyday Alaskan life.
Her paintings portray the unique culture and people that define Alaska and will be enjoyed for generations. Munoz was not originally from Alaska but spent most of her life in and around Juneau. Her work and legacy have become part of the eclectic community of Alaska’s modern culture.
If you’re traveling to Petersburg, Alaska, Check out Petersburg, Alaska: Essential Guide
Sydney Laurence: A Pioneer in Alaskan Landscape Painting
Sydney Laurence (1865-1940), is often regarded as one of Alaska’s foremost artists and landscape painters. His works were crucial in shaping the perception of Alaska’s wilderness during the early 20th century. Laurence’s paintings are characterized by their depictions of Alaska’s mountains, glaciers, and expansive skies.
Laurence was born in Brooklyn, NY, and later moved to the United Kingdom after marrying fellow artist Alexandrina Dupre. They resided in an artist colony in Cornwall. Laurence became an artist-war correspondent traveling to various parts of China and Alaska. He lost his hearing covering the Zulu War.
In 1903, Laurence abandoned his wife and their two children, moving alone to Alaska. Laurence set up a small camp near Mt. Mkinley, where he would create his most iconic oil paintings. He opened a studio in Anchorage but later in life wintered in Los Angeles and Seatle, returning to Alaska in the summer to paint.
Xenia Cage: Alaska’s Surrealist Artist
Xenia Andreyevna Kashevaroff (1913-1995) is a surprising art figure from Juneau, Alaska. Cage was a cutting-edge surrealist sculptor famous for making mobiles. She collaborated with Joseph Cornell, Marcel Duchamp, and Max Ernst and was exhibited by Peggy Guggenheim and at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Her personal life was more punk rock than classical. She married to composer John Cage from 1935-1945. The marriage dissolved when their ménage à trois with dancer Merce Cunningham became an affair exclusively between the two men.
Xenia Cage did not exhibit any work after 1950 and worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. While most of her life was spent outside Alaska, she will be remembered as an Alaska Artist and is buried at the Evergreen Cemetry in Juneau.
Ray Troll: Blending Science and Art in Alaskan Pop Culture
Ray Troll (Born 1954) is one of the most recognized artists working in Alaska. He was born in Corning, NY, and didn’t arrive in Alaska until he was an adult. He is known for his quirky and eclectic prints, which blend science and pop culture.
Troll’s works often feature marine life, fossils, and elements of paleontology, creating a unique fusion of art and science. He has collaborated with the director of the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History but is best known for his humorous prints and T-shirts. His famous T-shirt design with the words “Spawn Till You Die” has appeared in pop culture. Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliff famously wore the shirt.
Ray Troll is an Alaska artist whose work you will see if you travel through the state. His shirts and designs are common in many shops across Alaska, making him one of the most popular artists in Alaska.
Ray Troll’s gallery on Creek Street used to be a popular destination. For a full guide on the famous boardwalk, check out our article: Creek Street: Ketchikan, Alaska’s Historic Boardwalk
Where to See Alaska Artist’s Work
For those seeking to immerse themselves in the world of Alaska artists, a journey through the state’s diverse venues is a must. From museums in urban centers to outdoor totem parks, here is a list of places to experience the rich tapestry of Alaska artists both working today and from the past.
Anchorage Museum- Anchorage
The Anchorage Museum stands as a cultural beacon housing many of the great works done by Alaska’s artists. Boasting a vast collection of Alaska artists, visitors can wander through exhibitions that showcase everything from traditional Native Alaskan Art to contemporary work. The museum’s commitment to representing diverse voices and narratives provides a comprehensive overview of Alaska’s artistic evolution.
I first visited the Anchorage Museum in 2023 and was overwhelmed by how much work there is to view and how large the spaces are. This museum takes multiple visits to take it all in, from whimsical dancing bears in one gallery to contemporary photography and sculpture exhibits. If you’re in Anchorage and looking to see some work Alaska artists have to offer, this museum is not to be missed!
Address: 625 C St, Anchorage, AK 99501 / Phone: 907-929-9200
Alaska Native Heritage Center – Anchorage
The Alaska Native Heritage Center is a must-visit destination for a deep dive into Alaska’s Native artists. The center’s mission is “to promote active observance of Alaska Native culture and traditions. Through permanent collections, life-sized village sites, and immersive educational programs, ANHC creates immersive experiences that promote understanding of our rich and diverse Cultures.”
Address: 8800 Heritage Center Dr, Anchorage, AK 99504 / Phone: 907-330-8000
The International Gallery of Contemporary Art – Anchorage, Alaska
The International Gallery of Contemporary Art is an exhibition space dedicated to new works in visual and interdisciplinary arts. The IGCA is the place to go to see contemporary Alaska artists. It was established to provide the community with a place where provocative ideas, diverse art forms, artists, and audiences can come together to offer a point of view that encourages vision, risk-taking, and discovery and to be an art space where experimentation and risk are still possible.
Address: 427 D St, Anchorage, AK 99501 / Phone: 907-279-1116
Fireweed Gallery – Local Artist work in Homer, Alaska
Fireweed Gallery is located on the main street in Homer, Alaska. The gallery is Known for representing the local art community. I remember working in Homer, Alaska, for years, and every holiday or birthday that would come along, I would stop at Fireweed Gallery to peruse the local Alaska Artists’ work for gifts to my loved ones. This gallery features diverse artworks, including paintings, pottery, and jewelry.
Address: 475 E Pioneer Ave A, Homer, AK 99603 / Phone: 907-235-3411
Bunnell Street Art Center – Homer, Alaska
Another gem in Homer’s artistic community is the Bunnell Street Arts Center, an art space showcasing local artistic expression. Hosting exhibitions, workshops, and artist residencies, Bunnell Street Arts Center’s mission states: our mission is to spark artistic inquiry, innovation, and equity to strengthen the physical, social, and economic fabric of Alaska.
Address: 106 W Bunnell Ave, Homer, AK 99603 / Phone: 907-235-2662
Klawok Totem Park – Klawok
The Klawaok Totem Park hosts Alaska’s largest collection of authentic totem poles. Located on Prince of Wales Island, in the city of Klawok, the park exhibits 21 totems. While the Klawaok Totem Park may be remote for most visitors to Alaska, if you find yourself on Prince of Wales Island and want to see some of the truly unique work of Alaska artists, it’s worth heading to the park to experience the totems.
Address: 545 S Church St, Klawock, AK 99925
Map of Where to See Alaska Artists work
Alaska Artists Conclusion: Celebrating Diversity in Alaskan Artistry
Alaska’s artists, past and present, have played a pivotal role in shaping the state’s cultural narrative. From traditional landscapes to contemporary explorations of identity and environment, these Alaska artists represent a diverse tapestry of Alaskan creativity. Their work and unique lives continue to resonate, capturing the spirit of a land where the wilderness meets artistic expression. These are just a few of the Alaska artists who have made significant contributions to the arts. I look forward to profiling additional Alaska artists in the future, but for now, I hope we’ve piqued your interest in exploring the work of Alaska artists from the past and present.