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Selections from Dan DeRoux’s History of Alaska

Poster featuring Cribbage Walrus

When the whaling industry came to Alaska, it became apparent to the Native people that they could have some income from selling items to the whalers. Scrimshaw and baskets became popular. Eventually a walrus was bred that grew variously patterned tusks resembling the cribbage board.

All work is oil on canvas unless otherwise noted. Quotes by the artist appear in quotations. Links to works that inspired him are included where available.

Tusk in Case

Carved Walrus Tusk

From the Alaska State Museum collection

Entry Cutout

Charles Wilson Peale with My Head

Daniel DeRoux was born in Juneau Alaska in 1951 and except for five years in San Francisco, has been painting in Alaska all of his life. His work is in the collection of the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio, the Morris Museum in Atlanta, and all the major Museums in Alaska.

His exhibition record includes many awards in international and national competitions, including the Florence International Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary Art and a Gold Medal for "Most Accomplished Artist" in the Los Angeles International Art Competition. Also in the Los Angeles International Art Competition, he won a Bronze Medal in "Mixed Media" and Certificates of Excellence in Painting and Drawing.

He represented Alaska in the "First Western States Arts Foundation Biennial" which toured to the National Collection, Washington D.C., the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Newport Harbor Art Museum, and the Denver Art Museum.

Exhibitions include: the Czar's Summer Palace in St. Petersburg, the Vladivostok Municipal Gallery, the SOMAR Gallery, the Alaska State Museum, the Los Angeles Design Center, Portland Art Museum, Mississippi Museum of Art, the National Collection, Washington, D.C, and the New York International Art Competition.

Raven and the Box of Light

Wood with electric light

Tlingit mythology holds that Raven, the Creator, brought light in a box and gave it to the world. It is stained with blueberry and salmonberry, the galaxy splattered across its chest and eyes.

The Call of the Wild

The lure, the mystery, the siren call, make it rich…the last ditch. Here Flora is being courted by Neptune and Bacchus. It is spring and the bountiful riches of the earth attract the attention of those yearning to partake.

Marco Polo in Alaska

Swedish historian Leo Bragow has presented evidence that puts Marco Polo in Alaska in the 13th century. A document donated to the Library of Congress from the merchant Marcian Rossi in the 1930s states that Marco Polo was on an expedition at the behest of the Queen of Mongolia to deliver a gift to the Queen of Sakhalin. Blown off course to upper Kamchatka, he met Biasso Sirdemap, a Syrian who told him of a land to the east. Marco Polo’s maps were known to the European explorers and they identified the Aleutian Islands and the coastlines of both sides of the Bering Sea.

Chinese at Kodiak, Six Act Mystery

When the Russians arrived at Kodiak, the Koniags gave them Chinese coins as gifts. As far as we know, the Chinese predate the Russians in Alaska by about 300 years.

Bering Loses His Marbles

In 1740, the Danish Sea Captain Vitus Bering (shown here with the figures from Raphael’s School of Athens) was hopelessly blown off course.

There is a long tradition in art history where figures and "passages" or groups of figures are repeated but with a new treatment. This has happened since forever, and so that’s what I do. I borrow from everywhere.

Drake in Angoon

In 1579, in his quest for the Northwest Passage, Sir Francis Drake deceived European spies by making a false map of his extensive reach up the Northwest Coast, longitudinal reference numbers erased and replaced to indicate a more southern reach. It is held now that he had reached Kake, Chatham Strait, and Angoon. In June 2001 the Juneau Empire reported: “Rumors that Drake had been in Alaska were fueled in the 1950s when a Southeast resident, a prospector whose name has not been revealed, discovered a heavy metal plate in a bay on Chatham Strait. The inscription on the plate indicated that Francis Drake herewith claimed possession of this land in the name of Queen Elizabeth. The prospector also discovered stones with pre-Columbian-like markings – possibly discharged ballast stones.”

Here, the Tlingits are welcoming him with devil’s club tea and cocoa, served in this silver tea service engraved in a blend of Tlingit formline and Mayan glyph. This discovery leads me to surmise that the Tlingits had ventured further south than commonly believed. They have recorded venturing as far as Hawaii, but this tea set would have us believe that these sea travelers had contact with South American civilizations as well.

Tea Set placard for Drake in Angoon

Photo board

El Jaleo

All lands touching the Pacific Ocean were first claimed by Balboa in 1513. In 1779-1790, The Spanish established themselves at Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island in a preemptive move to exclude Russian occupation. The Spanish sea captains Bodega y Quadra and Quimper set their sights on Alaska and claimed Valdez, Cordova, and Kenai for Spain, exploring as far east as Unalaska.

“El Jaleo” means “the ruckus.” The Spanish came to Alaska and claimed territory from Vancouver Island up to Kenai. Here is a Spanish dancer at Cape Yakutaga, calling the musicians back from a break.

Doge’s First Potlatch

The Doge of Venice is raising a totem on the Grand Plaza as the ceremonies for his first potlatch get underway.

Dutch Harbor

Lore has it that the first ship to sail into Dutch Harbor was indeed Dutch. Here we see the typical Dutch architecture and the maritime designs of coastal Alaska fishing vessels.

“This is really Juneau as what it might have looked like if it had been settled by the Dutch in the 1600s. It mimics the city of Delft by Vermeer, his hometown. I really like the Dutch painters from back then.”

The Blanket Guild

The guild system of the Netherlands was an important forerunner of the Silver Hand program, indicating authentic authorship of arts and crafts in Alaska. Also there was the Red Hand which indicated the item had been stolen. The Gold Hand indicated the item was very expensive or overpriced.

“The Cigar Box Guys was an icon I have stared at since I was 5 years old. As a painter I am inclined to want to do something with that image that has been so ingrained. They were the Draper’s Guild Board Members. The Dutch, having been early European visitors, could have built cities and set up shop. I liked having them as an organization that would have upheld the value and quality of weavings done in Southeast Alaska.”

Airship Norge

This painting was purchased by the Alaska State Museum as part of its permanent collection. It is one of 11 works by the artist.

Seward’s Ice Box

William H. Seward, Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State (and also a victim of an assassination attack that included Lincoln), was the lead advocate for the purchase of Alaska from the Russians. His effort, labeled “Seward’s Folly” and “Seward’s Icebox,” was disparaged but he took advantage of the publicity and actually went into the ice box manufacturing business in his hometown of Auburn, New York. This is a deluxe model, the cameo portrait probably made by unskilled (prison) labor.

Seward’s Ice Box Advertisement

Print on paper

Known for a dry sense of humor, in this newspaper advertisement from 1861, Seward is depicted selling ice boxes to Alaskans.

Hardscrabble Miners

For the long dark winters, miners in the Yukon and Alaska passed the time as best they could. Gambling was popular in the towns, but on the trail and in their cabins, the bottom of a wooden crate was often removed and a makeshift scrabble board created. These rough and tumble miners were no sissies, and made the game extra challenging by limiting the use of vowels and adding extra high scoring consonants. A pocket dictionary was necessary to settle claims by “game jumpers,” as they came to be called. (Note the guns and axes kept near the table.)

Hardscrabble Miners

Photo print

These rough and tumble miners were no sissies, and made the game extra challenging by limiting the use of vowels and adding extra high scoring consonants. A pocket dictionary was necessary to settle claims by “game jumpers,” as they came to be called. (Note the guns and axes kept near the table.)

Scrabble Board, Tiles and Dictionary

Wood and paint with book

Gold Bearing Iron Oar

Iron, quartz and gold

Gold Bearing Iron Oar

Iron, quartz and gold

Excavation Photo

Photo print

On a routine gold prospect on Douglas Island, Fletcher Flanders and Butch Cromwell uncover gold-bearing quartz in an iron oar. These gold fields yielded unbelievable and sometimes curious riches to the dedicated seeker.

Soapy Smith

The DeRoux Brothers Meet Soapy Smith

Jefferson “Soapy” Smith was a Skagway outlaw of mythical stature. His claim to fame was that, despite being a scoundrel, he dedicated himself to “cleaning up this town,” which he did. A shameless self-promoter, he hired Raymond “the Fish” Pesce as the bartender in his parlor. Pesce had a knack for carving fish out of soap and Smith would claim authorship, which earned him accolades from art connoisseurs as far away as the salons of Paris.

This painting, completed just moments before Pesce shot Smith to death, depicts the DeRoux brothers, who had just arrived to visit their grandfather Augustus “Frenchy” DeRoux, who also ran a card room/brothel. The celebrated soap sculptures were distributed for free to the townspeople and fulfilled Smith’s professed desire to “clean up.”

Sitka, Paris of the Pacific

Sitka was once considered the most cosmopolitan, international port on the entire pacific west coast.

Bergen at Dutch Harbor

Edgar Bergen, center, Charlie McCarthy, left and Mortimer Snerd, right, take up position in an anti-aircraft bunker on Dutch Harbor in the Aleutians. In a last ditch effort to stem the Japanese invasion, the U.S. military turned to ventriloquism in what was considered a turning point in the war in the Pacific.

Men of Distinction Smoke Lord Atom

Edward Teller, master mind of the atomic bomb, had convinced the powers that be that they should detonate two bombs to make a deep water port at Point Hope in an experiment dubbed “Project Chariot,” because….. there was no logic to this and it was most evident to the indigenous people of the area who were able to bring an end to this misguided project.

Unusual Weather Patterns

Climate change has raised eyebrows all over the globe. This weather pattern, a mauve/gray paisley, resulted in a violent storm when it encountered a plaid low front.

Unusual Weather Patterns


Greenhouse Gas Trapper

Here, a trapper finesses a trap set to collect greenhouse gas. Many sourdoughs had given up on their wood burning stoves as “too dirty” and “a lot of trouble,” converting them for the burning of greenhouse gas. This greatly reduced the carbon footprints that would ruin the carpet.

Box Trap Wood and string

“My experience with trapping is maybe trying to catch the cat in the box with a stick and a string, so this is how I imagined the Machetanz trapper would do it if he went greenhouse gas trapping.”

Greenhouse Gas Station

Edward Hopper’s lonely gas station is like a childhood memory. It could be anywhere, New Jersey or Palmer. It was the perfect prototype for dealing with the problem of global warming.

Greenhouse Gas Advertisement

Print on Paper

GPS Kayak

Any kayaker worth his salt could navigate by the stars and currents, but this method has been rendered obsolete with the advent of GPS and the iPhone. One can map the way back home through the maze of ice floes AND watch Gilligan’s Island on YouTube. The waterproof and transparent seal gut iPhone case is a must-have accessory but unavailable at the Apple Store.

Methane Lake

Across the entire Arctic region, as the permafrost melts, it releases methane into the atmosphere. In winter as the lakes freeze, the gas is trapped under the ice. Holes can be drilled into the ice and the methane can be burned like a gas stove.

Denali Bubbles

Imagine the future. Invent your own history.

Disturbed Migratory Pattern

Climate change has caused disturbances in the animal world. Changing ocean temperatures have caused currents, and hence feeding patterns to be altered, weather has changed vegetation and wetlands.

Disturbed Migratory Pattern