Perry Eaton: Alaskan Maskmaker

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Perry Eaton pictured with a collection of his hand carved masks

Perry Eaton is an Alaskan Native belonging to the Suqpiaq Alutiq tribe in Kodiak, Alaska. He grew up in the commercial fishing industry on the small island and was surrounded by the culture and heritage of the Alaska Native community. His work is an incredible synthesis of the place that raised him. He began his artistic career as a black and white photographer and a painter, but the medium he feels he has best expressed his Alaskan Identity through is carving traditional Suqpiaq Alutiq masks. Their form and shape are deeply rooted in the rich material culture of Kodiak Island. For Perry, the masks have proven to be a means and method of transformation; they are a celebration of belonging, producing a deep sense of pride in being Suqpiaq.

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Ascending Bird

Wood, Feathers, Beads, Paint, Thread 30″x30″  2011

He draws his inspiration from everyday life exploring topics of self-perception, sharing in community, gender identity, relationships, and natures cycle through his work. Perry uses a variety of materials to create his masks with materials he finds in Alaska. His favorite material is white spruce. He uses simple tools gouges, crooked knives, and sandpaper to shape wood that he put through a lengthy drying and curing process. The masks draw from traditional iconography and natural materials to capture an essence of the Native community.

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Me, Alvin Amason, and Perry Eaton: Alaskan Born Artists

I had a chance to meet with Perry Eaton earlier this year in his studio in Anchorage, Alaska. We spoke about his career as an artist, the struggles, triumphs, and what about his work was most rewarding to him. It was an pleasure to talk with him and he gave me some of the best advice I have received as a young artist: “Make what you know.” Perry further explained this by telling me to look to my environment, and the world I’ve come to know, and the place that raised me for inspiration. I will cary his words, and the dedication he gives to representing his heritage with me as I grow as an artist.

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