Editorial: Artist lives on in hearts of Alaskans

  • Thursday, April 16, 2015 4:48pm
  • Opinion

Rie Muñoz is, was and will always be a part of the Juneau community, of the Southeast Panhandle and, for that matter, all of Alaska.

She painted and sketched us. She talked, walked and frolicked with us.

We were in her art throughout her life, and she was in our life through her art.

We became each other.

From the day she stepped off the steamship Princess Louise, not even halfway through her planned Seattle to Skagway sailing, Rie became Alaska.

In less than an hour she had secured a job and a place to stay.

Two days later, Rie met the steamship again and removed her luggage.

“To me, it was the biggest moment of my life,” Rie once said. “Of course, I have had many big moments since, but at that time I was never so sure of myself.”

And from day one we were all sure of Rie.

That first job at the Daily Alaska Empire introduced her to the citizens of Juneau and she fell in love with each and every one of us.

She was touched by Alaska, and as she moved about it, Alaska was touched by her.

During her 65 years in Alaska, she visited every community on the road system and all but two of those off it (Anaktuvuk Pass and Kake), sketching as she went. Communities represented in her art include Juneau and Tenakee, Ketchikan and Elfin Cove, Noatak and Kotzebue, King Island and Unalaska.

Look in any living room or hallway, and if there is not Rie Muñoz art making your mouth drop in wonder and merriment, then that particular place is in wanton disregard of all things beautiful.

Yet, Rie herself would tell you that some of her best work is hanging in friends’ bathrooms. To her, that was still among the highest of compliments.

“Any wall is a showcase,” Rie said. “At least they are hanging somewhere.”

If a work in progress wasn’t perfect when finished, it was just turned over and a better rendering was completed on the other side.

“A number of my paintings have other no-good paintings on the other side,” she said. “A lot of people probably have some of my disasters hanging on their walls.”

But what was a disaster to Rie is a masterpiece to the rest of us.

Another thing about Rie is she would always tell you what was on her mind.

Take, for instance, one particular visit with Rie at her son’s house that involved Russian scientists who had recreated the bust of Vitus Bering, using all types of scientific facts that only crime drama purists and highly educated college professors could fully understand.

That bust paled in attention to Rie’s wit, candor and charm.

Somehow, Russian scientists were laughing along with Rie’s tales.

She could laugh at herself, too.

When her hands began to tremble and her detail work began to fade, her wit still prevailed.

“At last I can become an abstract painter,” Rie said. “I will keep my ears though, thank you very much.”

Rie said her two favorite pieces she had done are “The Embrace,” in which an Eskimo mother hugs her little daughter, and “Peaceable Alaska,” where a group of animals are gathered around a boy in a wooded setting.

“I think they are all OK,” Muñoz said of her work. “When someone likes them, they become better. When someone says they have one or two of my paintings, I say ‘Good for you, that is what keeps me going.’”

And that is what keeps us going — having a Rie Muñoz on our walls and in our hearts.

— Morris News Service-Alaska

More in Opinion

Deborah Morel’s beachhouse near Ninilchik, Alaska. (Photo courtesy of Deborah Morel)
Voices of the Peninsula: The Dream Team saves the day

The story, I believe, speaks to the goodness of humankind.

Opinion: The truth Dunleavy should tell about COVID vaccines

Dunleavy made a political calculation to appease his party’s angry base by joining the lawsuits against the mandates.

Laura Black, owner of Fireweed Bakery, sells some of her wares during the Merry Little Christmas Market at the Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna, Alaska on Nov. 7, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Opinion: Shop local this holiday season!

By Julie Anderson Shopping locally has never been as important or as… Continue reading

A resident casts their vote in the regular municipal election Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020 at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Voices of the Peninsula: What do voting statistics say about our democracy?

Kenai Peninsula Borough total voter turnout in this past October 2021 municipal election was a sad 11.84%.

Opinion: Rural broadband is essential infrastructure

Broadband funding is available. The rest is up to Alaskans.

Nurse Sherra Pritchard gives Madyson Knudsen a bandage at the Kenai Public Health Center after the 10-year-old received her first COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska Voices: A mom’s and pediatrician’s perspective on COVID-19 vaccines for children

I want to see children and their parents who have yet to get vaccinated roll up their sleeves.

Larry Persily (Peninsula Clarion file)
Opinion: State defends its right to cut nonexistent taxes

This from a state that has no property tax on homes or businesses, only on the oil industry.

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Opinion: The foolish men claiming self-defense

It’s not just misguided teenagers carrying guns who find themselves in trouble with the law.

Dr. Jay Butler, former chief medical officer for the State of Alaska, is seen in this undated photo. (Courtesy photo)
Alaska Voices: Feeling grateful this Thanksgiving for the COVID vaccines

The COVID vaccines remain our strongest tool in combating the pandemic and helping us return to our lives and the things we love and cherish.

Most Read