Frye Art Museum

photo by Jill Berarducci

Seattle, Washington

(206) 622-9250


Rie Muñoz: 100 Recent Alaskan Watercolors


The work of artist Rie Muñoz (b. 1921) is so popular among Puget Sound residents that the exhibition at the Frye Art Museum, opening Nov. 6, 1999, will be her eighth exhibition at the museum. Her return is marked by 100 recent watercolors on display through Jan. 9, 2000. (left: Whales in the Inlet, 1998, watercolor, 20 7/8 x 17 1/4 inches)

Muñoz's first exhibition at the Frye (1973) was also her first show outside Alaska. It was so successful that the museum invited her back in 1975, 1981, 1983, 1986, 1989, and 1992.

Muñoz's playful, bright images have captured the spirit of Alaska without sacrificing their authenticity. Her subjects include fishing camps, Eskimo villages, canneries, animals, and children at play, represented in a colorful, simplified style.

She began painting her now-famous scenes of Alaskan native life in the 1950s when she first moved to Alaska. Born in California, Muñoz spent her childhood moving back and forth with her family between America and the Netherlands. While on vacation to Juneau in 1950, she first fell in love with Alaska where she continues to live today.

Muñoz claims she first felt a "special affinity" to Alaskan natives after teaching for one year in an Inupiat Eskimo Village on King Island (1951). Here she observed the Eskimo lifestyle and began sketching the people at everyday tasks.

In 1968 she began work as curator for the Alaska State Museum. Through the museum, she learned silk-screening techniques and stencil work. By 1972 her prints were being sold at outlets in Alaska. She has since traveled throughout Alaska, capturing different aspects of native life.

A self-taught artist, Muñoz spent the beginning of her painting career using oils. Now she uses casein, watercolor, and acrylic paints interchangeably. Muñoz has also experimented with stone lithography, glass, soapstone, linocut, woodblock prints, etchings, and tapestry. Avoiding most shades of gray, her brilliant, extravagantly vivid colors, and playful perspectives are presented with a feeling of place, producing richly emotional pieces. Muñoz enjoys painting exaggerated motions and simplifying the shapes of her subjects, which are invariably human figures or animals (especially dogs and birds) involved in some outdoor activity. Her object is always to find a way to make her subjects lively.

Now in her seventies, Muñoz is producing 40 to 50 paintings a year, of which she selects her favorite 10 to 12 for reproduction. She leads a focused, simple, non-materialistic life in her small Juneau home. If she is not painting, signing prints, or taking care of correspondence, then she is sketching or walking her dog. Muñoz has found something she loves to do, painting, and that is what she spends her time doing.

Read more in Resource Library Magazine about the Frye Art Museum.

Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

This page was originally published in 1999 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

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