PENINSULA - A mosquito mask, killer whale headdress, kushtaka ("otter man") mask, and a half-dozen forehead masks are some of the Native American inspired works of art that woodcarver Lonnie Acord will bring to share at this weekend's Peninsula Arts Association Art Show.
Acord, the winner of Best in Show at the 2010 PAA Spring Art Show for his mountain goat Tlingit headdress, has been carving for over 30 years and says he's thrilled to be the featured artist this fall.
His interest in carving began when he was a little boy, carving out boats, toys and replicas of hunting knives. Woodcarving came easy to him, so he took carving classes in high school, and then university-level carving and design courses. But when he took a mask carving class on Lopez Island, his art focus shifted to learning the art of Tlingit masks.
Named after the southeastern Alaska tribe, Tlingit masks have a distinct style in the forms and colors that are used, and Accord says he follows the traditional forms and adds a hint of his own style. Though he's not Native, Acord says he respects the spiritual native culture and he loves the artistic aspect of the Tlingit masks, which imitate a variety of animals, from beavers and ravens to sculpins and killer whales.
Making the forehead and full face masks out of Alder, Acord says the masks' defining Tlingit characteristics are as slight as the proportion and thickness of the lips, eyebrows and eyelids. It takes about two weeks to make the mask from start to finish, which includes adding paint and other details. Some masks are embellished with copper, which was considered a sign of high status in Tlingit tribe, others have abalone shell inlays, horsehair or high-end human hair, acrylic sea lion whiskers, or imitation eagle feathers, as it is illegal to possess real sea lion whiskers and eagle feathers.
While some Native masks and art can sometimes appear angry or scary, Acord says he is a happy guy and the Tlingit people are a happy people, so as a result, he likes his masks to appear happy, too.
"I start with the idea that I'm going to do the perfect mask, and it turns out whacked-out sometimes," he admits. His most recent example is a project that started out as a portrait mask and, due to some unforeseen changes in the face, morphed into a shaman-like mask.
Inspired by the critters of old myths, Acord says he also finds inspiration in the everyday. While many of his masks tell traditional myths and stories, Acord also discreetly adds his own story in his work.
"Some galleries have called my work whimsical, and I'm not sure I like it. I'm respectful and serious with my art," he adds. "I'm very respectful of the Tlingits and the Tlingit culture, and I don't want to offend anyone."
Acord says he enjoys the journey of his woodcarving projects, as well as restoring Harley motorcycles and old cars.
"Fabricating, building, scheming, trying to figure out how I'm going to pay for it. I enjoy the process."
Previously from Juneau, Alaska, Acord moved to the Peninsula by way of Svenson, where he and his wife resided for one year. In September, he was the featured artist at the Lower Columbia Woodcarvers Show, where he showcased 25 pieces of work. This coming July, he will be teaching Northwest Coast style carving in Ellensburg.
He is a longtime art collector and though he thoroughly enjoys carving, at some point he'd like to learn how to paint.
See Acord's masks along with many other beautiful pieces at the PAA Fall Art Show on Oct. 8, 9, 10 and 11 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily at the World Kite Museum, 303 Sid Snyder Drive in Long Beach. Stop in for your chance to win a raffle drawing for an original painting by Eric Wiegardt or original art pieces in the Marcia Rockwell Silent Auction. The winner for the Wiegardt painting will be drawn at 2 p.m. on Sunday; the silent auction closes at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. For more information about the Peninsula Arts Association, log onto their website at (www.beachartist.org).