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Alaska Native artist from Dillingham inspired by subsistence, salmon

  • Author: Trina Landlord
  • Updated: September 29, 2016
  • Published May 2, 2013

Yup'ik artist Apayo Moore is the featured artist for First Friday during the month of May at the Alaska Native Arts Foundation in downtown Anchorage. Moore is Yup'ik from Dillingham and Twin Hills in southwest Alaska.

She grew up going to school in Dillingham, spending summers with her grandparents and aunts in Twin Hills.

"It wasn't that I wanted to be an artist," she said, "but more that my family told me I was an artist and I grew into the role because it came naturally to me."

Moore attended Green River Community College in Auburn, Wash., and completed her studies at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., with a bachelor's degree in art and business.

"Current events inspire me to make art," Moore said. Her illustrations revolve around current Native topics and other important issues. She expresses emotions through her paintings.

"Culture and our way of life in rural Alaska is threatened, so I paint stories," she said. Her inspiration is drawn from bilingual classes she took growing up that had an impact on the way she sees the world.

Moore says her culture is important to her because it teaches her to be respectful and that she finds that to be one of the most desirable traits in a person. "Being respectful encompasses a lot," she said. "A respectful person will always think for the best interest of all, and I enjoy caring for others. It makes me happy."

"My solo exhibition at the Alaska Native Arts Foundation will help open the eyes of people who don't get to see Bristol Bay first hand," she said. "It's hard to respect a way of life when you don't experience it or your only interaction with it is to see words."

"Take 'subsistence' for example," Moore said. "There is a lot more to it than just killing and eating. Many people don't get the opportunity to work with their grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and cousins. When you work with people, you build relationships with them, which is why a lot of Western-cultured people have closer ties to their co-workers than their families -- they don't work with family as much.

"The way Native cultures keep us thinking in the best interest of all is to expose us to the people dearest to us, dealing with the most fundamental ingredient to life," food, she said. "Subsistence builds family wellness, and when an entire community practices it, you make community decisions for responsible development as a cohesive unit thinking for the best interest of all."

People will see her spirit in this show, which is joyous and playful.

"They will see a hint of my hopeless romantic side and a dash of my deepest fears. And of course people will see how influenced by my culture I am," Moore said.

Beautiful scenery is her biggest inspiration, including the nature of her Yup'ik culture and the daily life. Her family inspires her because of the love they possess and openly express for one another. Moore's daughter has opened her eyes to the way that the current generation must manage the world.

"Through her I understand the unknown of future generations," she said.

Moore admires other local artists. She said she never pays much attention to the mainstream. She says her mother is a skin sewer, her aunt is a basket weaver, and Moore also looks up to many local Alaska artists working on their own projects. They inspire her for understanding the concept of starting projects and carrying them through to completion.

If she were to choose a favorite artist in Alaska, she said, it would be Ketchikan artist Ray Troll. She appreciates his sense of humor and the love he has for the fishing industry. "I hope one day my fish can advocate for subsistence the way that his advocates for sport and commercial fishing," Moore said.

Moore has been part of a few group shows, including in college for a senior show at Fort Lewis College Gallery, and at the Dos Manos gallery in Anchorage. She shows her work in Dillingham every month. Moore has also previously been part of group exhibitions at the Alaska Native Arts Foundation, though this is her first solo exhibition.

Trina Landlord is the executive director of the Alaska Native Arts Foundation. She can be reached at trina(at)