Shareholder Spotlight: Kathleen Carlo-Kendall Recognized as one of America’s Most Accomplished and Innovative Artists
Doyon, Limited shareholder Kathleen Carlo-Kendall was born in Tanana, Alaska, the daughter of Poldine and William “Bill” Carlo. She came to Fairbanks at the age of 5, when her parents moved to town in order to keep her eight sibling together rather than sending the older ones away to boarding school.
In the late 1970’s, Carlo-Kendall joined the Native Art Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), where she studied under Ron Senugetuk, a respected Native carver and mentor. “My first semester at the Native Art Center, I was the only woman around. I started carving with all these traditional male carvers. They are the ones that encouraged me to keep carving,” said Carlo-Kendall, who added that she has loved artwork since her high school years.
Her artwork, she explained, sometimes symbolizes an event or spirit, and other times it is just what comes out of the shape of the wood. “Lately, a lot of my work is inspired by the stick dance from the village of Nulato,” she said.
Carlo-Kendall received her bachelor’s of fine arts degree in 1984 from UAF. Her first show consisted of carved masks she made during her BFA program, and she was the first graduate of the program to have a show at the new Museum of the North.
Besides mask-making, she also enjoys working with panels of wood and metals, ice-sculpting, and teaching. She has been teaching for about 20 years with the Artists in Schools program, a statewide program. Since 1990, she has worked as a Native arts carving instructor for the University of Alaska Summer Fine Arts Camp. The last few years, she has also been teaching with Upward Bound, a program that brings students from the village to the university for the summer so they get the feel of the campus and college life.
When it comes to her career and inspiration, Carlo said, “Rural teaching has been most gratifying because I find inspiration in the students and their pride in their artwork. When I go into a village, I teach for a few weeks. By the end of my stay, each student has a mask that they are so proud of. We do an art show and invite the community. The kids are just so proud. I always stress the importance of having something titled, so the kids have to think of a name. It is a pretty cool art show in the end and the kids are just so proud. It is very rewarding.”
Carlo-Kendall said her favorite creation of her own is a mask on display at the Fairbanks Cancer Center, entitled “Lucy in the Sky with Blueberries.” Lucy Carlo, an original member of the Doyon board of directors, was Kathleen’s sister, who passed away after a battle with breast cancer. Picking blueberries was one of the last things the sisters did together while Lucy was still able to be active. Shortly after that, Lucy became very ill and was confined to her bed. At one point, in a moment of delirium toward the end, Lucy smiled and asked Kathleen, “Am I picking blueberries?” The mask includes a ribbon from the stickdance for Lucy, and the tears are made of silver and in the shape of a breast.
Carlo-Kendall has won many awards for her work and twice has been chosen for Percent for Art Commissions. Her most recent recognition comes from United States Artists (USA). Each year, USA awards $50,000 fellowships to the country’s most accomplished and innovative artists working in the fields of architecture and design, crafts, dance, literature, media, music, theater and performance, traditional arts and visual arts. Fellows are selected through a rigorous, highly competitive process involving hundreds of experts, scholars, administrators and artists. USA Fellows spotlight the importance of originality across every creative discipline, celebrating the broad diversity of American artistic practices from coast to coast, cultivating a creative ecology that is diverse in age, race, religion, gender and sexual orientation. USA believes in risk-taking as central to promoting the power of art in American life and creatively impacting the world. As one of only 36 artists chosen nationwide, Carlo-Kendall was selected as the USA Rasmuson Fellow in Traditional Arts. She plans on using the fellowship money to do some traveling to South America and pursue a passion to volunteer.
Carlo-Kendall’s works can be seen in the collections of the UAF Museum, the Alaska State Council on the Arts, the U.S. Department of the Interior, Anchorage Museum of History and Art, Doyon Limited, Doyon Utilities, the Morris Thompson Cultural Center, the Fairbanks Cancer Center and numerous private collections in and outside Alaska.
“I can’t believe that I am 64. It’s been a lifetime of doing artwork. I can’t believe that I got to do that,” Carlo-Kendall said. “I couldn’t have done it without my husband, Dennis Kendall, who recently passed away. He did so much for me and I miss him dearly. He made my artwork possible.”