Clarie Fejes

Claire Fejes

she was a ground-breaker:

as a woman, artist and entrepreneur,
Claire made a space for herself,
her paintings and her vision
–– both in the arctic and in the world beyond


About Claire's Artwork:

In a 1992 interview, Claire Fejes talked about her painting life:

"The early Japanese painters would absorb a landscape and live there and look at it, the essence of it, and then they would maybe paint it in an hour. But they knew it. They had absorbed it. Maybe they’d written poetry about it.

"And early in my life I had felt that was right; that’s the way painting should be. No teacher ever told me that. It’s just something that I felt, and that was good to my nature, and belonged to me, this way of painting.

Clarice Fejes
Girl from Artic Village
"Girl from Arctic Village"

"I feel that when I do it all of a piece, when I feel it intensely, then it comes out at once. It’s always the best painting I ever did, because I never have to go back and do a thing to it. Those are the best things. – And I don’t know if other artists work that way. I don’t know. But that’s the way I work."

As an artist Claire Fejes departed radically from Alaska’s early and most admired painters. Sydney Lawrence, Ted Lambert and Eustace Ziegler were captivated by the Great Land – Alaska’s mountains and rivers, its vast spaces, and the rough and ready, near mythic pioneers who broke trail through it.

In contrast, Fejes’s work was daily, concerned with small moments, and the real, human lives of the people around her. She painted almost exclusively Alaska’s Native people – mostly Inupiaq and Athabascan men and women from Alaska’s west coast and interior regions. Her colors and lines were bold. The faces she painted were uninterested in the viewer, intent upon their own thoughts and emotions. She said she saw paintings possible in every moment, and painted the moments as she saw them.

Artist and art historian Kes Woodward characterizes Fejes work as both modernist and conservative, "a highly personal exploration of individual vision."

Mother and Child
"Mother and Child"