Ketchikan artist Troll receives $25,000 Rasmuson award

Mike Dunham
Ketchikan artist Ray Troll and volunteer helpers paint a 12 foot by 30 foot salmon mural in the new Imaginarium space in the Anchorage Museum of History and Art on Wednesday January 27, 2010. The Imaginarium is scheduled for opening in late May of 2010. Watch a time lapse video of the mural painting narrated by Troll with music by his group The Ratfish Wranglers on the Daily News website at BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News file photo

Artist Ray Troll of Ketchikan received the 2011 Rasmuson Distinguished Artist Award at ceremonies held at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts on Wednesday. The award includes a grant for $25,000.

Troll is widely known for his quirky, colorful, pun-laden T-shirt and poster designs, often involving fish. "Spawn til you die" and "The Da Vinci Cod" are among the most popular. But he is also involved with scientific illustrations, particularly biology and paleontology. He has worked with several major museums, lectured at Harvard, Cornell and Yale Universities, been honored by the Academy of natural Sciences and, with a collaborator, paleontologist Kirk Johnson, recently received a $50,000 Guggenheim fellowship.

It is the eighth year that the Rasmuson Foundation has presented awards to Alaska artists. Over that time, a total of $1.7 million has been given in the form of 230 individual grants.

Other recipients of awards, many of whom were present on Wednesday, were also named. They represent disciplines ranging from filmmaking and visual arts to writing, music and traditional arts. Most had firm plans about how they intend to spend the money.

Carver Earl Atchak of Chevak said he would be researching and creating a traditional shaman mask, a style notably different in appearance and purpose from the familiar reproductions of dance masks made for the tourist market.

"These kinds of masks were the most powerful masks in the community," he said. "A shaman would either get the design from his dreams or his visions. Since they were big, and since I'm trying to do it the way my ancestors did it, I'm searching for the right kind of driftwood, the root of a tree."

Atchak said he hoped to finish the piece by the end of this year.

The deadline for 2012 grants will be March 1. More information and a virtual gallery of work by previous and current recipients called "Second Life" can be found at

Here is the full list of 2011 Rasmuson art award winners:

Distinguished Artist Award ($25,000)

Ray Troll, visual arts, Ketchikan

Fellowships ($12,000)

Kate Boylan, bead artist, Homer

Steven Godfrey, ceramics, Anchorage

Deborah Head, basket weaver, Craig

Allie High, traditional artist, Wrangell

Bobby Itta, traditional artist, Barrow

Rosemary McGuire, writer, Cordova

Mavis Muller, impermanent basket maker, Homer

Jeff Silverman, filmmaker, Anchorage

Project Awards ($5,000)

Earl Atchak, carver, Chevak

Megan Behnke, actor, Juneau

Ruth Biden, visual arts, Fairbanks

Caressa Bohrer, composer, Homer

James Brashear, ceramics, Fairbanks

Sarah Cohen, visual arts, Homer

Ryan Corarro, puppeteer, Juneau

Jill Flanders Crosby, dance, Eagle River

Brandon Demery, actor, Juneau

Nicholas Galanin, visual arts, Sitka

Andrew Heist, ceramics, Juneau

Eowyn Ivey, writer, Palmer

Alexander Lewandowski, jewelry, Ester

Erica Lord, performance and visual arts, Fairbanks

Elena Lukina-Shelt, composer, Anchorage

Kylie Manning, visual arts, Juneau

Michael McIntyre, composer, Bethel

Melissa Mitchell, composer, Anchorage

Kay Parker, traditional arts, Juneau

Patrick Race, media arts, Juneau

Mollie Ramos, writer, Valdez

Lacie Stiewing, visual arts, Fairbanks

In addition, the foundation presented its first-ever President's Award for $5,000 to Anchorage writer and arts advocate Bruce Farnsworth.

Reach Mike Dunham at or 257-4332.