November 3, 2015

Dale DeArmond's Prints

        Dale DeArmond (USA, 1914-2006) lived most of her life in Alaska, where she was a librarian and an artist.  Her wood block prints and wood engravings are very much rooted in Alaska, depicting mostly animals, scenes, and traditional native stories.  Her animals have lots of accurate details, but are definitely stylized.  They often look pretty friendly, especially the ones I’ve chosen to share here.  Many of DeArmond’s prints have multiple colors, but of course I’ve mostly picked out black and white.
        DeArmond is one of those artists whose work has a definite sense of place.  She comes back to similar themes, people, and animals over and over.  Although some of her animals, such as the chickadees, could be seen anywhere, many of her prints are instantly recognizable as being from only one possible region of the world.  It isn’t just the subjects, but the style as well.  Although I don’t believe that DeArmond
was of Native Alaskan ancestry, much of her work has a definite flavor of the aesthetic style of native Alaskan peoples.  This is more evident in the illustrations of folktales which I haven’t included, but you can certainly see it not only in the mask-like face of the moon in the last image, but also the shapes and contours in the glowing sky.

        I’d love to see more of DeArmond’s illustration work, but unfortunately very few of her books are available in my library system.  Still, there’s much to enjoy in the images here.  I love the wood grain background of the duck, the patterns of its feathers, and the shape of its face and beak.  I love the huge halibut and the tiny fishing boat, like my leviathan, except that it seems more like a sort of icon of Halibutness, rather than a picture of an actual monster fish.  I like the single red swirl of the sun, too.  I love all the light in the night scene, the glowing creatures in the teeming ocean, and the light surrounding the people and the kayak.  Despite the awfully big waves, they seem protected by the night.
        It’s obvious that DeArmond loved Alaska and celebrated it with her art, and that’s exactly why I make art, too: to celebrate the things I love and share them with others.

[Pictures: Duck on a Rock, wood block print from multiple blocks by Dale DeArmond;
Eskimo Village, wood block print by DeArmond, before 1986;
Halibut, wood block print by DeArmond, 1973;
Chickadees, wood engraving by DeArmond, 1958(?) (Images from Ahgupuk Art);
Cover image, wood relief print by De Armond for Tales from the Four Winds of the North, 1996.]

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