Meet 5 female artists who transformed Juneau’s art scene

“Self Portrait”, c. 1970 by Dale DeArmond. Donated by Robert and Dale DeArmond, JDCM 89.04.002.

“Self Portrait”, c. 1970 by Dale DeArmond. Donated by Robert and Dale DeArmond, JDCM 89.04.002.

Most Alaskans are familiar with the work of Rie Munoz. But what of Dale DeArmond, a woodcut printmaker who was intrigued by Alaska Native myths and legends and inspired by ravens, her favorite subject? Or how about Emma Marks, whose stunning floral design beadwork — once sold in Juneau shops — were inspired by her childhood memories of wildflowers on the shores of Yakutat rivers?

It’s these artists and more that the Juneau-Douglas City Museum brought into focus in March. They featured five local female artists every Friday on the city’s Facebook page, as part of the second annual National Museum of the Women in the Arts #5WomenArtists campaign for Women’s History Month.

These women transformed the Juneau arts scene and forever left their mark on the capital city. They made life, well, livelier for the rest of us. Here’s to Frances Davis, Emma Marks, Dale DeArmond, Fumi Matsumoto and Rie (Mournier) Muñoz. Read more about them here.

Frances Davis

Born in London, England, in 1855, Frances Davis (née Brooks) lived in Juneau from 1891 until her death in 1932. She was a prolific painter and is considered Juneau’s first significant resident artist. Davis studied drawing, painting, sculpture, piano, and languages, and attended the South Kensington Art School (later known as the Royal College of Art).

In her youth, she lived and painted in France, Germany, and Italy, and visited Canada in 1890, crossing the country with friends, stopping to sketch and paint along the way. After her adventure across Canada, she visited California and heard about Alaska’s beautiful landscapes. In 1891, she arrived in Juneau on the steamship Topeka. Not long after, she met and married J. Montgomery Davis.

What was supposed to be just a quick trip of a few months to see the north turned into 41 years in Juneau. During those years, Davis painted wildlife, seascapes, street scenes, objects, landscapes, and portraits. Constance Davis notes in “Gastineau Channel Memories” that Frances Davis “carried a shopping list of things to sketch, and hoped not to run out of oils and canvas before the next ship docked. Wood scraps, backsides of old posters, and metal pieces did not escape her brush!” Davis’ works are held in collections across the state, including at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, and the Empire Building in Juneau. Davis is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Juneau.

Emma Marks

Born in Yakutat in 1913, Emma Marks, whose Tlingit name was Seigeigéi, after her maternal grandmother, was Raven, Lukaax.ádi of the Alsek River Shaka Hít (Canoe Prow House). Her father’s people were the Shangukeidí of the Italio River Kawdliyaayi Hít, (House Lowered from the Sun).

She grew up in the Alsek River (Aalseix) and Dry Bay areas (Kunaaga.áa) in a place called Italio River (Keilxwáa) in Yakutat. Marks grew up speaking Tlingit at home with her family, who lived a subsistence lifestyle, and she learned beadworking and sewing from her mother, grandmother, and sister-in-law. According to Nora and Richard Dauenhauer, her daughter and son-in-law, Emma Marks remembered vividly the flowers she saw from the river as a child, and those images were later reflected in the floral designs in her beadwork. In 1926, she married Willie Marks in Juneau. Emma and Willie Marks raised their children in a Tlingit-speaking home and environment at a time of great pressure for Alaska Natives to assimilate into Western culture. Emma and the Marks family have always been generous in sharing their knowledge with others, and her children are artists and teachers.

Marks is known for her beadwork and her distinctive style of using buttons with glass beads in her compositions. She began as a child sewing and beading moccasin tops that her mother cut out for her. Later, she made moccasins for the Alaska Native Arts and Crafts Co-op and for Belle Simpson’s shop in Juneau. In the 1970s, she began developing beaded jewelry and accessories. Marks created works for traditional clan commissions as well as beaded items for sale. She received many awards for her work, including the prestigious Alaska Governor’s Award for the Arts in 1989. She also received an individual artist’s fellowship grant from the Alaska State Council on the Arts, and she was honored with a solo artist show at the Alaska State Museum in 1988. Marks died in 2006 at the age of 93. After her death, Nora and Richard Dauenhauer created the Emma Marks Memorial for Alaska Native Languages Fund to support the Alaska Native Language program at UAS, providing scholarships for students and funds for language faculty. Marks’s daughter, Florence Sheakley, learned beadwork from her mother and is an accomplished bead artist in her own right.

Dale DeArmond

Born in Bismarck, North Dakota, Dale DeArmond grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Tacoma, Washington. During her high school years in Tacoma, she met Bob DeArmond, and they were married in Sitka in 1935. The couple moved to Juneau in 1953, returning to Sitka in 1991 to take up residency at the Sitka Pioneers Home.

DeArmond began her artistic career in Alaska working with wood carving and copper, then drawing and painting, and, in the 1960s, woodcut printmaking and wood engraving, which became her primary medium from that point forward. From 1958-1979, DeArmond was head of the public library in Juneau, in the building now home to the City Museum. After retirement in 1979, she became a full-time printmaker until her death in 2006.

DeArmond frequently used Alaska Native legends and myths as inspirations for her art, and ravens were a favorite subject. According to the Juneau Empire, she once wrote, “I’m an illustrator by instinct and choice and I’ve always been interested in myths and folk tales. … My adult life has been spent in Alaska and the myths and folk tales of the Alaska Native people provide me with a rich fund of subjects.” DeArmond produced hundreds of woodcut prints and wood engravings, and illustrated many books over the course of her career. Her first book of woodcut prints, “Juneau: A Book of Woodcuts,” won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers’ award for best-illustrated book in 1973.

Fumi Matsumoto

Fumi Matsumoto was born in Japan, and her family came to the United States in 1952 when she was 4 years old. She grew up in Berkeley, California, moved to Fairbanks, Alaska, in 1980, and has lived in Juneau since 1990. Her work reflects the experiences and themes of her Japanese ancestry, growing up as an Asian American, and also her passion for wildlife. She has spent more than 30 years both creating art and teaching art to students of all age levels.

A mixed media artist, Matsumoto works with a wide range of materials including sculpture, clay, photography, handmade paper, and silk painting. In addition, Matsumoto uses found objects and re-purposed materials to create sculptures and “teabag” linoprints, which depict a variety of Alaskan wildlife. She also incorporates various traditional Japanese techniques into her art, such as raku ceramics, origami (paper folding), sumi-e (ink brush painting), kirigami (paper cutting), and hanga (block printing).

Some of her work is inspired by her family’s history as well. Her father, Roy Matsumoto, was incarcerated at the Jerome Relocation Center in Arkansas during World War II, due to President Roosevelt’s Executive order 9066. He then volunteered for the army, serving as one of Merrill’s Marauders in Burma and later receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor. Fumi Matsumoto reflects on his experiences and those of her other family members in pieces she exhibited as a part of Juneau-Douglas City Museum’s 2014 exhibit, “The Empty Chair – The Forced Removal and Resettlement of Juneau’s Japanese Community, 1941-1951,” including “Issei/Nisei” seen here. These mixed media sculptural works incorporate family photos, Japanese imagery and art techniques, and themes of hardship and endurance.

Rie (Mournier) Muñoz

One of Alaska’s best known female artists, Rie Muñoz is famous for her watercolor paintings of the daily activities of ordinary Alaskan people. Born in Van Nuys, California, in 1921, to a Dutch immigrant family, Muñoz spent much of her youth traveling back and forth between Holland and California, crossing the Atlantic Ocean eighteen times by her eighteenth birthday.

As a young woman, Muñoz did illustration and design work, decorating windows for department stores in California. In 1950, she boarded a steamship to Alaska for an adventure. When she arrived in Juneau, she found a room to rent and a job at the local newspaper, and decided to stay. She met and married Juan Muñoz, and they moved to King Island, Alaska, to work as teachers for a year, returning to Juneau afterward. Muñoz’s time on King Island was a pivotal experience, and she would return to imagery inspired by that year again and again for the rest of her career.

After her return to Juneau, Muñoz continued working in illustration and painted nine murals for various buildings and businesses. As a young woman, she painted realistically in oils, but after settling in Alaska, she moved to casein, acrylic, and watercolor paints, developing a lively, colorful style that became uniquely recognizable. Muñoz was a prolific artist, painting and sketching until vision problems slowed her down when she turned 90. She estimated that she had completed more than 2,000 paintings and at least 140 sketchbooks during her lifetime. Rie Muñoz died in 2015.

“Looking Down Gold Creek”, 1894 by Frances Davis. Donated by Constance Davis, JDCM 92.35.005.

“Looking Down Gold Creek”, 1894 by Frances Davis. Donated by Constance Davis, JDCM 92.35.005.

Detail of “Study for the Teenage Club Murals”, c. 1950 by Rie (Mournier) Mu&

Detail of “Study for the Teenage Club Murals”, c. 1950 by Rie (Mournier) Mu&

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