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Featured Artists

George Ahgupuk

George Twok Aden Ahgupuk is an Inupiat Eskimo Artist from Shishmaref, Alaska, which is located in the Bewring Sea approximately 90 miles East of Russia.

He was born in 1911 in Shishmaref, Alaska.  His Eskimo name was “Twok” which means “man”.  George grew up learning subsistence living skills, such as fishing and hunting.  In 1930, while hunting for ptarmigan he slipped on an icy area and broke his leg.  Although the leg healed, it did not heal properly and in 1934 he was hospitalized for tuberculosis.  This began a new chapter in his life.  While hospitalized he began to sketch scenes from his village life.  His first works of art where on sheets of toilet paper.  One of George’s nurses saw his talent and gave him drawing paper and requested he make her some Christmas cards.  He returned to the village and realized he could make a living doing what he loved.  Due to limited access to paper his early artwork was on sealskin and animal hides

George tried to balance his Inupiaq lifestyle with the “white man’s” lifestyle.  To earn a living he worked as a commercial fisherman during the summer season.  In winter he would draw and sell the artwork to tourists.  As a traditional Eskimo he would use anything available for his drawings.  He was known to draw on sealskins, fish skins, mushrooms, wood and tile.  If it could hold paint it was used.

George was ”discovered” in 1937 after an article with his artwork was published in the New York Times.  Rockwell Kent was the author and a friendship developed between the two during their many years of correspondence.  This friendship opened up many avenues for George to sell his artwork, including Christmas cards and book illustrations.

Although George had several strokes late in life, which made drawing and painting difficult, his intellect and will was still strong.  His had a strong desire to document his earlier village life as an Alaska Native.  His hope was future generations would know Alaska through his artwork.  George Twok Aden Ahgupuk died in 2001 at his home in Alaska.

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