2007 Distinguished Artist Award
Watercolor artist Rie Muñoz (1921–2015) painted bright, lively depictions of daily life in Alaska. Muñoz arrived in Juneau in 1951. She was on a vacation aimed at taking a steamship to the farthest place she could afford to reach. She lived in many small Alaska communities during her life, but ultimately she called Juneau home. She worked as a teacher, journalist, curator at the Alaska State Museum, and an artist, and she raised two children. In correspondence with Rasmuson Foundation, Muñoz described her style of painting and its inspirations:
“My artwork can best be described as expressionism. The term applies to work that rejects camera snapshot realism and, instead, expresses emotion by distortion and strong colors.
“I do field sketches followed by composite sketches in the studio. When I’m happy with the design I will put it on 300-pound Arches watercolor paper and do the painting in watercolors and/or acrylics.
“My paintings reflect an interest in the day-to-day activities of Alaskans, such as whaling, fishing, berry picking, commercial fishing, children at play, as well as folklore and legends. While I find much to paint around Juneau, most of my material comes from my sketching trips I take to the far corners of Alaska. I’ve taught school at King Island and traveled to most every community in our state. My aim is always to capture the village as it is today.”
Muñoz used her Distinguished Artist Award to travel, sketch and paint. At the age of 83, she revisited communities that inspired her earlier works to capture them in their present light. Her other major project was the publication of King Island Journal. This book features the letters she and her husband, Juan Muñoz, wrote while stationed in the community as schoolteachers from 1951 to 1952. It includes their photographs and Muñoz’s watercolor painting that was inspired by the experience. To the Foundation she wrote, “This book gives a glimpse into this unique Alaska culture on the brink of dramatic change. A few years after we taught on King Island the school was closed, forcing the village to abandon this ancient site and move to Nome.”