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Drew Michael: Life Expressions
at the Alaska State Museum February 1, 2013 to March 16, 2013

I was born into a body that has two identities – into a world that is split into two outlooks; one being my Alaska Native, Yupik/Inupiaq, and the other being my white, Polish European. I have lived a life full of dichotomies, each giving me the ability to see things from multiple perspectives: Native/white, Christian/non-religious, straight/gay, rich/poor and artist/blue collar worker.

My work reflects my outlook on life, and I am constantly looking to expand my scope. My woodworking incorporates different forms of customary and contemporary design. I use traditional materials such as wood, ivory, feathers, and bone. I also challenge myself to use more modern materials such as metal, plastic, leather, wire, cloth, nails, and found objects. I recently participated in a stone carving class with Larry Ahavakana, and started my work as a stone carver. Painting has become part of my scope, and I hope to incorporate it into my wood working here in the near future.

Sandblasted Glass

I have had training with master indigenous artists such as Joe Senungetuk, Kathleen Carlo, and Larry Ahavakana. I have been connected to John Hoover and his family for many years. My goal for the near future is the get into larger scale pieces that open my perspective of creating. When I create I tend to work on smaller pieces focused mainly on a single idea. When I work in a larger scope, I will be forced to do pieces that include my community and its surroundings.

The best thing about my work is that it tells a story that is not just my story but the story of my people, my culture, Alaska’s culture, the perspective of my time and the story of modern mixed race. I hope to be able to continue to share my story and our story with new and exciting materials.

Hidden Mysteries

Hidden Mysteries is a story of how we can be changed by energy and the beauty of things unseen becoming seen and moving out of us. When we learn more about who we are, we become more vibrant and alive.

Basswood, textiles, staples, tacks, acrylic, wire, copper dust and stain.
November 2012

Some of Drew’s earliest work. From left to right.

Holy Spirit

A mask that shares how the Holy Spirit of God is able to see all, speak with a quiet voice, is part of the trinity, and is all around. If you look closely you may see something hidden in the face.

Basswood, feathers, and stain.
On loan from the collection of Larry Michael and Allan Ramsey


This piece shows the dichotomy of the ideal (good) and the evil sides we all have inside. I wanted to show the tension that exists between the two.

Basswood, fur and stain.
On loan from the collection of Larry Michael and Allan Ramsey


This is a representation of the characteristics of God. God is part of the trinity, can see all, speaks loudly and quietly, and is everywhere.

Basswood, feathers and stain.
On loan from the collection of Larry Michael and Allan Ramsey

More of Drew’s earliest work. From left to right.


I created this piece with the goal of experimenting with design, texture, and shade.

Basswood, stain, feathers, nylon and acrylic.
On loan from the collection of Larry Michael and Allan Ramsey

Concealed Lifeblood

I incorporated the hand into this piece to demonstrate and express the idea of weight and pressure from outside forces. I was feeling pressured by the outside opinions and cultural views to be something I was not. The indentations on the forehead represent the impact the pressures have on our souls. The eye shows the emotion of sadness and heaviness.

Basswood, acrylic, nails and stain.

2009 On loan from the collection of Hoover Family


This is the final part of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit is hidden here, too. The hands represent thirty plus years of earthly life. The three feathers represent the three crosses on The Place of the Skull.

Basswood, pine, dowels, synthetic sinew, acrylic paint, and feathers.

View to the left going in. Most of the masks along this wall are from Drew’s early work.

Central display. These masks are some of Drew’s favorites.

View around to the right. Some of the masks in this area are more recent.

Insanity for Thought

I wanted to share the moment when we are lost in the crooked thoughts that swirl in our heads and can take flight into a fairytale land. The ideas grow and we are trapped in the crooked thinking. This was the beginning of my move to create pieces that expressed what I was thinking inside using mixed materials and forms.

Basswood, wire, aluminum plate, nails, epoxy, burning tools, and stain.
On Loan from Charles Hacker’s personal collection

Untamed Desire

This was inspired by a clip from a friend of the sound of fire. The clip was looped and I was able to listen to the fire and think about its function. I imagined a face being transformed, distorted, taken away, and this is what I created in response to that idea.

Basswood, wire, nails, aluminum plate and acrylic.


Escape was created during a time when I was feeling trapped in my life. The mouth is my pain birthing from my soul. The eyes are my wanting to escape the situation but feeling trapped by circumstance. And the hair is my emotion and scream to escape or reach out and touch the freedom lost.

Basswood, conduit tape, wire, nails, epoxy, canvas, acrylic, and birch wood.


I saw some geese and they inspired me to create a piece that masked their image. The wire is crocheted.

Basswood, wire, feathers, fabric, furniture nails, stain, acrylic.
On loan from Caleb Teel’s personal collection


This piece is an expression of a feeling trapped in a situation. The eyes in the mouth are my feelings of being inside a prison and the hand is my hoping and looking outside this situation at something better. The little figure in the upside down umbrella signifies a little place in my mind where I escape.

Basswood, marbles, nail polish, wire, acrylic, rod, fabric, and epoxy.
On loan from the collection of Anna Hoover

Surround Sound

This is a story of one person who is surrounded by many different reflections of one’s self. This person is overwhelmed and lets out its insides.

Basswood, aluminum, nails, wire, screws, speakers, batteries, wood glue, car carpet, contact cement, magnets, cloth and stain.
November 2012
On loan from the collection of Larry Michael and Allan Ramsey


The raven is a collector of my dreams. He is mysterious and takes my dreams in the moonlit night to his nest where he can watch them and cultivate their growth.

Basswood, aluminum, wire, nails, acrylic, tacks and stain.
On loan from the collection of Josh Morales

Life Vibrations

Life Vibrations speaks to the energy and life force that is all around us. As a child I would sit in the woods and listen to the wind and wonder where all the power that held the world together was coming from. I wanted to be a part of that energy and motion.

Basswood, steel/brass rod, beads, wire, Plexiglas, plastic, leather, acrylic, and stain.
On loan from the collection of Ellen Arvold


We all have had times of feeling guilty for doing something that we feel is wrong. Release shows the process of presenting our wrongdoings and asking for forgiveness. The umbrella is a picture of what it means to feel a raining-down of forgiveness – a washing away of our guilt.

Basswood, aluminum rod, aluminum plate, stain, glass beads, nylon thread, furniture tacks, plastic beads, abalone beads, freshwater pearl beads, wire, and rubber.
November 2011
On loan from the collection of Barb Miller

Internal Blossom

Yes it’s a penis. If you look at the piece as a whole, the mask has both the feminine and the masculine aspects of sexuality and human behavior/emotion. Within this piece the gentle soft and beautiful aspects of the feminine flower are contrasted by the hard, rough and bold aspects of the masculine form. I wanted to share how sexuality can sometimes become an aspect of our lives that can blind us or block our view of things that really matter. Sexuality and the action can lock us into something that isn’t healthy if we are not refocusing on our own internal goals.

Basswood, tacks, aluminum plate with acrylic, stain.
November 2011

Dresses and Legs

Dresses and Legs was inspired by the band “Bearfoot Blue Grass.” I went to a concert in Talkeetna this last spring and saw a girl wearing a dress that had some patterns. I wanted to capture that pattern on the top of this piece using burning. The tacks represent the fringe and the dark area directly under the fringe represent the legs under her dress. The hair under the legs is the hair of a face that is peaking from under the dress.

Poplar wood, tacks, wire, shell, horse hair, yellow cedar, and stain.
July 2012

Time Told

Time Told was created to tell the story of a history and wisdom that comes from experience.

Basswood, nails, wire and stain.
November 2011
On loan from the collection of Fred Rainey

Numbered Gifts

Numbered Gifts is a celebration of the amazing diversity and love within our communities. The flags, printed by Ricky Tagaban, are a celebration of the beautiful cultures that are alive today and the ones that need to be kept alive. The small silver tacks represent religious and spiritual focuses that many people in our communities practice and need.

Basswood, wooden dowels, wooden clothespins, copper wire, silver eyelets, miscellaneous cloth with silkscreen prints done by Ricky Tagaban, silver tacks, thread and stain.
November 2012
On loan from the collection of Fred A. Rainey and Alanna M. Small

Soul Songs

Soul Songs was inspired by the times of soul awakening. There is a calling out of the people who will become aware and full of life. Live a life full of joy and expression.

Basswood, textiles, copper, aluminum, brass wire, and epoxy.
February 2012
On loan from the collection of Brennan Cain

True Beginnings

True Beginnings was created for the Catholic Social Services charity ball. I am sending good energy and democratic values with this piece.

Basswood, peacock feathers, tack, acrylic and stain.
April 2012
On Loan from Tricia Teasley

Night Spirits

I created this design while falling asleep one night. I was feeling spirits watching me as I was about to fall asleep and saw their faces melding together in the dark of the night. They had amazing energy and a fun emotion to them.

Basswood, copper plate, various found spoons, salmon fish skin and Stain.

Without Seeing

Without Seeing shows the connection between two parts of who someone is, body and spirit mixing to create a larger form. The small face represents the spirit within the body and the large piece is the body form.

Red cedar, copper nails, found material, and staples.

Deep Down

Deep Down represents our connection with the past and the people who came before us. Our strength and life energy is passed down with our connection through time with people who have seen many things.

Basswood, wire, tacks and stain.
On loan from the collection of Pamyua

Dance Hands

These hands are designed in relation to the picture found in The Living Tradition of Yupik Masks – Our Way of Making Prayer by Ann Fienup-Riordan (pg.189). The meaning for these relates to our connection to the land and our people throughout time. Who we are is in our blood.

Basswood, metal tacks acrylic, and door stops.
October 2012
On loan from the collection of Pamyua


The only way to really see some things that matter are to see with your heart. Only when we see with our hearts are we able to see the true beauty in the world.

Basswood, copper, wire, feathers, horse hair, brass wire, and screws.
July 2012


Momentum was created with the spirit of a great community member in mind – lover of purses and people.

Basswood, aluminum plate, wire, eye hooks, purse zipper pulls, cedar bark and stain. August 2012
On loan from the collection of Dedra Cronin

Falling Out

Falling Out tells a story of what it means to feel trapped in some life situation. I was in a place where I was learning more about who I was and did not feel like I could allow that to come out. In the end I was able to “Fall Out” into my true self.

Basswood, silk, canvas, zipper, baleen, tacks and aluminum plate.

Tina’s Little Cheeks

Tina’s Little Cheeks is the story of how Ricky Tagaban’s cheeks slowly fell to the floor and how he became the walrus. The feathers represent his identity as a classy lady with a hat from the times of the Edwardian Era.

Basswood, acrylic, ostrich feathers, halibut fish skin, wire, raccoon dick, synthetic sinew, yellow cedar bark, turquoise, copper wire, furniture tacks and stain.
October 2012 — with Ricky Tagaban.

I Can’t Believe I Ended Up Like This

This is my self-portrait piece named little D. I wanted to design and create a piece that captured a bit of my personality while using materials in ways I hadn’t before. The face has two sides suggesting a two-spirited struggle within but a unified and balanced, whole person, one being a more realistic representation while the other light side is more like my typical mask design with minimalist expression. The copper on the cheek is a characterization of my jaw line and doubles as a sort of armor I put on every day. The glasses are one of my first pair of glasses from the year 2000 or so.

Basswood, copper plate, used glasses, wire, screws, rubber, nails, and seaweed.
July 2012


This piece tells a story of how seasons change and life changes all around us. Our surroundings affect our mood and our emotions. All we can do is accept what we cannot change and do the best we can to make things work better. I have created it so it can be worn and used.

Basswood, tacks, nails, pendants and stain.
On loan from the collection of Donna Bach

Complicated Matters

Complicated Matters is an expression of distorted reality. A face is composed of a mouth, two eyes and a nose. I wanted to distort the arrangement of the parts to create a twisted form.

Basswood, yellow cedar, copper plate, taxidermy eye, wire, wax, epoxy, and stain.
July 2012

Dark Friend

Dark Friend is the Raven who carries out trickster plans. This design was inspired by my need to distort and contort the typical make up of a mask form. I wanted to create two faces in one and manipulate the perspective view of a face.

Basswood, brass and silver tacks, feathers, wire, fringe, and epoxy.
August 2012