Aleut Artists

O. Patricia Lekanoff-Gregory

O. Patricia Lekanoff-Gregory is Aleut, born and raised in Unalaska, Alaska. She had the opportunity to not only learn firsthand about her heritage from Elders but she was able to practice many of the skills traditions of her people as well. Mrs. Lekanoff-Gregory was a student of many master artists, including Anfesia Shapsnikoff, Sophie Pletnikoff, Agnes Thompson, William Tcheripanoff, Agafangel Stepetin, June Simeonoff, Barbara Carlson and Ray Hudson.   Patricia focused her attention on bentwood visors after learning from Master Aleut Hat maker the late Andrew Gronholdt in 1989. Shortly before his death, on his last trip to Unalaska in 1998, Mr. Gronholdt told “Pat” Gregory: “You need to start teaching this art, as I am not coming back.” Today, Mrs. Gregory has kept her promise and teaches hat making in Unalaska, Akutan, Kodiak, Anchorage, Sand Point, the Pacific Northwest, aboard the Alaska Marine Highway ferry vessels and in several Aleut culture camps. Today, she is considered a Master artist herself with expertise in Aleut bentwood hat making.   She travels to various museums to study examples of 19th century hats. Gregory uses a variety of wood, from the traditional yellow cedar to tulip poplar, Sitka spruce, and cottonwood. She uses for the most part acrylic paints and decorates her hats with sea lion whiskers. When these are not available, she makes whisker-like fibers using monofilament line. The elaborate closed-crown helmet now serves as a symbol of Aleut identity. Technically, the hats are called bentwood headgear; popularly hunting hats, although only one (and the simplest) type was worn in ordinary hunting. Other Alaskans, too, had bentwood headgear, but nowhere did the custom become so highly elaborated as among the Aleuts. Without Patty’s commitment and tireless effort to carry on this tradition this part of the Aleut culture would have disappeared. […]

Read More

Agnes Thompson

  Agnes Thompson was born and raised in Atka, Alaska. She learned Attu-style basket weaving at age 25 from her mother, Olean Golodoff Prokopeuff. She was also influenced by other basket weavers, including her Godmother, Jenny Golley, and Aunt, Pariscovia Wright. The baskets she has created over the past 40 years have been featured in museums – such as The Smithsonian in New York and the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, in several books and publications, and is treasured among countless private collectors. Her preferred medium is hand-picked beach grass and she is saddened that due to pollution and difficulty travelling, it is increasingly hard to come by. Basket weavinghas always been a passion for Agnes, and she feels strongly about the importance of preserving this dying talent. She has demonstrated and taught at several workshops and culture camps throughout the state and country over the years, and is excited to see the next generation learn this ancient art.

Read More

Timothy R. Shangin

An uprising artist, Tim Shangin began his art work after attending the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association’s 1st Urban Unangax^ Culture Camp in 2008.  Although Tim is Alutiiq, he fell in love with Aleut Art after he met his wife, Josephine Borenin-Shangin, an Unangax^ from Akutan, Alaska. Tim focuses on learning the designs and patterns used on traditional Aleutian visors. Only seven visors of this rare form were collected by explorers during the late 1700’s to the mid 1800’s which are held in museums throughout the world. The stunning long visor or open-crowned hat that Tim is holding in the photograph above, is the very first visor he made. He began making the visor at APIA’s 2008 Urban Unangax^ Camp under the direction of O. Patricia Lekanoff-Gregory and finished it on his own when he returned home to Akutan. The visor is hand carved and features elaborately painted traditional geometric patterns and designs. The traditional design is hand painted with acrylic paint and decorated with glass beads, sea lion whiskers, with duck feathers and a fossilized ivory figurine, carved by Tim himself, adorning the hat. Tim continues to make bentwood visors and is perfecting his craftsmanship,  you can see in the photographs shown here. He donates visors to APIA’s Gala fundraiser and they are highly prized at the live auctions. In 2013, one of Tim’s visors went for $3,500! To inquire about the availability of Tim’s work, please contact him at PO Box 146, Akutan, AK 99553 or email him at shangint@hotmail.com.

Read More

Dimitri Philemonof

APIA’s own President/CEO Dimitri Philemonof, is a self-taught artist. He has tried his hand in several media and was the first to experiment with cloisonné., making miniature helmets. Today, such pins are made and sold by many Native Alaskan artists.  Prints of Aleut Churches, sold as sets of cards, also are very popular. However, a traditionalist at heart, Philemonof paints in oils mostly for his own pleasure. His style is naturalistic and his favorite subjects are land and seascapes of Alaska and Orthodox churches of his native land. Dimitri’s postcards are available at APIA’s Unangam Ulaa central headquarters in Anchorage. Please inquire with the receptionist.

Read More