Ricky Tagaban has a garbage bag of mountain goat wool and $7,500 in award money.
Tagaban, a Chilkat weaver and drag queen, of Juneau is a recipient of a Rasmuson Foundation’s 2018 Individual Artist Award.
“It’s a pretty awesome feeling,” Tagaban told the Capital City Weekly Tuesday afternoon.
Tagaban said he will use the grant money to establish a studio outside of his home and weave mountain goat wool he’s been collecting since 2013.
“A lot of it other people have found for me,” Tagaban said. “I’ve had people contact me, people who hadn’t even seen my work. I did receive a hide four years ago, so that’s one bit of it. The other half is all stuff that’s been found. I’ve mostly been stockpiling it because I’m going to send it to a mill, and they process it.”
Locally, Tagaban has work for sale at both the Andrew P. Kashevaroff building at the Alaska State Museum and Kindred Post, a downtown post office, gathering space and gift shop.
Tagaban’s long-term goal is to recreate a blanket from his dad’s clan house that depicts a thunderbird carrying a whale.
“I know the real one is in a museum somewhere,” Tagaban said. “The process of me or my family getting it back would take a long time, so I think a way I can be helpful is to make a new one.”
Recreating the blanket will take a while, too.
Tagaban estimated it would take four months of spinning with cedar bark to come up with the 1,000 yards of warp needed to make the blanket.
Then, it would be another year’s worth of 40-hour work weeks to complete the blanket.
It would likely take longer than a year because of his other work.
“I make a lot of earrings and iPhone bags,” Tagaban said.
Tagaban’s award application also included his work as a drag queen.
The two efforts are closely linked.
“I initially began weaving because of my gender identity,” Tagaban said.
He said it also factored into the late Clarissa Rizal teaching him weaving, and the artform was a balm during a chaotic time in his life.
“Middle school was a hard transition for me and becoming aware of my gender and sexuality,” Tagaban said.
Weaving helped him look inward, and he found the multi-step process force him to slow down and breath.
“Weaving was kind of the perfect thing to come into my life,” Tagaban said.
As is the case with weaving, Tagaban has a long-term effort in mind for his often politically minded drag.
“One of my goals is to indigenize drag,” Tagaban said.
Nearly 400 artists applied for an Individual Artist Award, and Tagaban was among a handful of local artists to be a recipient. Others include Roblin Gray Davis of Juneau, Merry C. Ellefson of Douglas, Alison Marks of Juneau
and Emily Wall of Douglas.
Other examples of Individual Artist Award project’s include a chapbook of persona poems based on Georgia O’Keefe proposed by Wall and a performance piece by Ellefson inspired by a man lost in 1949 for 18 days on an ice floe.
Jeff Baird, program officer for the Rasmuson Foundation,said he wasn’t sure that Tagaban’s application was a wholly unique combination but does not think there have been many other applicants working in wool weaving and drag.
Baird said that Tagaban was selected by a panel of out-of-state practicing artists is a testament to the artist and his work.
“Obviously, it was unique enough that it stood out amongst a really talented field,” Baird said. “It’s an amazing pool of talent applying for the awards.”