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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


February 22, 2003 - Issue 81


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Helen Jane Simeonoff


credits: All art images courtesy of Helen Jane Simeonoff


Helen Jane SimeonoffHelen Jane Simeonoff was born October 23, 1941 in Kodiak, Alaska to William Simeonoff, Jr. (Sugpiaq/Russian) of Kodiak, Alaska and Alexandra "Alice" Chernikov Channa Knagin Simeonoff Spracher of Afognak, Alaska. She graduated from Kodiak High School in 1959, studied art in San Diego, California, and learned watercolor painting at the University of Alaska-Adak in 1983. For 20 years she worked as a legal secretary, and then joined the staff of the Anchorage Police Department for 6 years. In 1993, she left the department to become a full time artist, her current profession. Today she lives in Anchorage. Helen is probably the only Sugpiaq female artist earning her income solely from the sale of watercolor paintings.

Helen doesn't use common soft watercolor brushes for her work - she achieves her unusual style by pushing the paint across the paper with very stiff brushes and letting the water do the work of "painting". She then softens the hard edges by spreading the paint with a damp brush. Some prints get a final touch of glitter.

Years ago an instructor at a painting workshop introduced her to "throwing" paint. "I liked his philosophy of mood painting instead of getting lost in tedious, boring detail," Helen says. She recalls that she was hesitant the first time she threw and splattered paint. After all the detail work she had done, she was afraid to "ruin" her hard work!

 An Alutiiq girl from Afognak Island picks the pink and magenta stems of fireweed that grow in great abundance on her island. She is visited by two young men in a baidarka, who are on their way to nearby Kodiak Island. They tell of their journies around the islands, to other villages, and the image of Lluam Sua - the Supreme Being - they encountered in the village of Karluk.Helen enjoys painting realistic subjects. She renders wolves, ravens, puffins, bears, sea otters, Alaska’s Native people, Native cultural items such as masks, petroglyphs, bidarkas, beaded headdress, and Russian Orthodox Churches with bright, cheerful colors to depict images from her life. A story accompanies each of her works which she draws from childhood memories of summers spent with her aunts Julia Knagin Pestrikoff, Polly Knagin Noya or Christine Knagin Lukin, in Afognak village. Her toys were items from the beach; wood, shells, tide pools, fish from Aleut Town creek. Helen has completed artwork for the Marriott Hotel/Residence Inn of Anchorage and is currently working on pieces for the Marriott Hotel of Fairbanks.

Helen's art is also featured by the Alaskan Native Heritage Center. Her prints may be purchased, for $30.00. Each watercolor comes with a colorful 11" x 14" mat. Please contact the Alaskan Native Heritage Center if you are interested in purchasing one of Helen's prints.

View a collection of Helen's Art:

Page One

Page Two - Wolves


To contact Helen:

e mail:

Alutiiq Museum
Explore 7,500 years of Kodiak’s cultural history at the Alutiiq Museum & Archaeological Repository. The museum preserves and shares the cultural traditions of the Alutiiq people through exhibits, educational programs, publications, anthropological research, and the care of traditional objects.

Alaskan Native Heritage Center

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