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John Hoover, revered Alaska artist used Native imagery and tales, dies in Washington state at 91

Posted: September 5, 2011 - 11:04pm

ANCHORAGE — John Hoover, a revered artist in Alaska who used imagery and tales from Native traditions in contemporary works, has died at 91.

His wife, Mary, said Monday that he died Saturday in Washington state, where they lived on Puget Sound near Grapeview.

Hoover’s work has been shown around the world and was prized by collectors, corporations and museums, The Anchorage Daily News reported.

Hoover was born to a Dutch father and an Aleut-Russian mother in Cordova, Alaska. He was a ski instructor in Idaho and a commercial fisherman in Alaska, staying on the latter job until 1991, his wife said.

He told the Daily News in a 1998 interview that he turned to art after building a 58-foot fishing vessel in the late 1950s “without much in the way of power tools.” He said he realized what he had done was much like sculpture, and his pieces after that often used a kind of bas relief on carved red cedar.

In 2002, the Anchorage Museum held a major retrospective of his work. In May, the University of Alaska Anchorage awarded him an honorary doctorate.

Hoover had exhibitions around the world, but was particularly appreciated in his home state where the Egan Civic and Convention Center, the Alaska Native Medical Center and the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage showed his large sculptural work.

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