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Leaders from the Region
Percy Avugiak, Alaska Native Artist
Storyknife, Nov./Dec. 2019 edition
Alaska Native Artist Percy Avugiak created a mural at the Rasmuson Library at the University of Alaska Fairbanks—a vibrant depiction of diverse Alaska Native cultures, cultural celebration and UAF’s inclusivity that brings together all Alaskans. The mural was revealed in September.
“I grew up with a very subsistence lifestyle—and still continue that to this day, and a lot of my paintings are about celebrating and dancing,” Percy says. “Many paintings are also about the stories behind the traditional songs.”
The Calista Shareholder’s first mural was in Bethel at 8 feet by 43 feet. This recent mural for UAF was 6 feet by 12 feet. Percy’s artwork is meant to reintroduce the art of our ancestors and explore the diversity of Alaska, no matter the size.
Percy was born in Bethel and raised in Chefornak to Yup’ik and Iñupiaq parents. Since graduating from UAF with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, he has continued his passion of painting Alaska animals, subsistence activities and cultural scenes.
Percy even creates traditional Yup’ik masks, wood and ivory carvings, jewelry making, acrylic paintings, and drawing. His earliest painting depicts children—inspired by his own kids—and paintings of landscapes.
“I feel relaxed when I’m working on landscape paintings because it reminds me of home, places I’ve been to, and things I’ve grown up seeing,” Percy says.
Although he is an accomplished artist with continually commissioned work, Percy says his passion is the key to developing who you are as an artist, or even just as a person.
“Don’t give up on your passion. For me, it started with portraits and landscapes, but whatever you like doing, there’s so much to learn when you’re starting out,” Percy says.
One of his first paintings was very personal but also a hot seller at events. Titled “New Fangs Toothpaste,” it depicts a squirrel brushing the teeth of a wolf with its mouth wide open.
“It shows a squirrel and a wolf with a toothpaste tube called New Fangs Toothpaste,” says Percy. “That was to encourage my kids to brush their teeth—I kept the original in the bathroom when they were little.”
“Don’t give up on your passion. For me, it started with portraits and landscapes, but whatever you like doing, there’s so much to learn when you’re starting out.” – Alaska Native Artist Percy Avugiak
Some of Percy’s friends saw the First Fangs painting and now it’s sold on prints and postcards. Percy’s passion for art goes beyond his business and his family life. He wants it to inspire the next generation.
“When someone sees my paintings, they’ll know it’s mine—because of how much time I’ve spent on this,” Percy says. “If you keep at it, you can find your own unique style or way to work.”