Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 7:42 PM on Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Peter Lind: patriarch artist

Kachemak Color

By Lindsay Johnson
Staff Writer

Editor's note: "Kachemak Color" features residents who make the communities of the southern Kenai Peninsula interesting. If you know of someone who you think would make a good story, call the editor at 235-7767.


Photos by Lindsay Johnson

Peter Lind, Sr. holds his latest Alutiq kayaker at his home recently.

Peter Lind is getting ready for a family reunion, an annual event he's attended for at least 35 years.

He spends a lot of time with his immediate family in Homer, but the upcoming gathering in Anchorage will bring Lind's extended family from all over the state.

The Fur Rendezvous Native Arts Market is one of about three such yearly reunions. Lind will spend most of the summer at the Native Heritage Center and also attend the Alaska Federation of Natives annual convention in October.

"We don't see each other for months and then we gather and everybody's hugging and talking and having fun. It's like a family reunion," said Lind's wife of 51 years, Darlene, who sells her own art at the shows.

Artistic blood runs in the Lind family. Pete and Darlene's son, Peter A. Lind Jr. (known in the family as Sonny) and his wife and children make their own art, as do a couple of Pete's nephews.

Art has literally kept the family, and their culture, alive.

The arts of the Alutiq people of Alaska's eastern southcentral coast were essentially unknown to modern man until Lydia Black's book, Aleut Art, was published in the mid 1980s.

"I believe this is where the Aleut ways were more or less reborn, because that gave him more insight into what they were told when they were small. It's like a real source of pride for him now that he can create his own culture from long ago," Darlene said of her husband's use of Black's book.

Lind taught himself to read, write, carve and draw while growing up in the village of Chignik, on the southern side of the Alaska Peninsula.


Photographer: Lindsay Johnson, Homer News

Lind is painting a chief's hunting hat to bring to the Fur Rendezvous Native Arts show. He said such a hat takes him about two weeks, from wood to wear, if no one bothers him. "It's amazing what you can do with your fingers if you only use them," he said.

"It was my entertainment in the evenings. We didn't have no TV. That's how I started," Lind said. He and his siblings would make things from materials that were available and listen to stories their Alutiq mother told them about her early life.

"I did lots of carvings making little things. My mom would tell us what to do. She told us lots of stuff," he said.

He kept doing some art after he was grown and had his own commercial fishing boat and private pilot license, though it was years before he became a full-time artist.

"When he first started doing more traditional art he did what everybody knows, the Eskimo-style art. But where he really came into his own was after Black published that book on Aleut art. Of course growing up his mother would tell him stories of when she was small. It's just like he knew of the hunting hat and stuff like that but nobody had ever seen them," Darlene said.

Lind has made Alutiq kayaks, harpoons, masks and sculptures from ivory, soapstone and wood. The pieces are, for the most part, decorated with traditional materials like ochre, sea lion whiskers and octopus ink.

"I try to use all kinds of natural stuff, you know. All that stuff comes from the books. I didn't make it up by myself," he said.

Lately Lind has been making traditional Aleut hunting hats, which he learned how to do about seven years ago from the late Andrew Gronholdt, a master hat maker from Sand Point.

"I always wanted to learn how to make those visors," Lind said.

"The guy taught me how to make those hats died. He was 80 years old. Took the class here. Lucky I did."

He said the first year he showed the hats at the AFN convention, no one knew what they were. Now they are bought and sold for thousands of dollars around the world.

In addition to the contribution of his own work to the revitalization of Aleut art traditions, Lind has helped ensure its continuity through 27 years of teaching around the state.

At 80 years old, Lind finds the fine parts of his work harder. His big hands get stiff and swell up sometimes, but he still has projects to finish.

He doesn't fly or fish commercially anymore, so "what would he do? He'd be bored," Darlene said.

Plus, Lind's a family man. He has reunions to go to.

As Darlene said, "He makes friends very easily. He likes to be around people. He's a good father, good husband. He's proud that Sonny is now doing things and following with the art work, so when he's gone there will be a Peter Lind."

Catch the Lind family at the Dimond Center in Anchorage Feb. 25-March 6.