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A glimpse inside Unalaska’s new library: Ray Hudson discusses print block installation

Unalaska’s new public library is expected to open in April. It’ll have more space, a fireplace, and many new art installations, all created by different artists from around the state.

KUCB is bringing the community a glimpse into the remodel by interviewing some of the artists whose work will be featured in the new library.

Many of the artists have ties to the island, including Ray Hudson, a common name in many Unalaska homes. He’s an artist, author, historian and former Unalaska teacher who has written extensively on the region — the library has even named the Alaskana reading room after him. In the new building, the Ray Hudson Room will sit across from his art installation, which will be featured around a fireplace.

KUCB’s Sofia Stuart-Rasi sat down with Hudson to hear more about his colorful print blocks and how his interest in the medium started nearly three decades ago right here in Unalaska.


KUCB: Can you describe your piece at the library to us?

RAY HUDSON: It's made from wood blocks that I've used over the years to make woodblock prints. It goes around the fireplace. And the wood is a cherry basswood, walnut, and then some pieces of a Japanese basswood that is used specifically for woodblock printing.

KUCB: Can you tell me your background as an artist?

HUDSON: I took my first woodblock class in Unalaska with Nathan Jackson. He's become a preeminent sculptor. But he came out and the State Council on the Arts wanted him to come to Alaska, and give a class on woodblock printing and on jewelry making. And I took a woodblock printing class, that was probably … I can't remember for sure … but maybe 1974, something like that. And then I took a class from Dale DeArmond, and then I spent one summer in China, studying woodblock printing. But other than that, I've just experimented by carving away and printing.

KUCB: What about wood blocking and printing do you enjoy the most?

HUDSON: I enjoy thinking about it, you know, you work in reverse. And so all of the carvings on this piece are the reverse of what the prints are. I enjoy thinking about that and I really enjoy carving. Wood has such a wonderful texture to it and I enjoy printing a few prints. I don't like making a lot of anyone. I like carving, I like the initial printing of it, and trying to see what will happen. You know, when you do a woodblock print, you'll have an idea in your mind. And then it changes when you start to carve it, because you can't carve it exactly the way you've drawn it. And once it's carved, you print it and it changes again, you don't know what the ink is going to do to the paper. And so you're always sort of being surprised by what's happening. So it's very, very unpredictable, and it's really enjoyable because of that.

KUCB: What inspired you to make the piece that you made at the public library?

HUDSON: In part, it was that quotation from Jerah Chadwick that's across the top: “The vastness in me returned by this place.” It's from his poem called Absence Wild. And there's just so much beauty in Alaska, and the interaction of people and birds and landscape. The difficult part was these are all, of course, separate prints done over a long period of time and somehow trying to tie them together. So, it's somewhat of a unified composition — that was the most difficult part.

KUCB: Is there anything else that you would like to say that I didn't ask?

HUDSON: There are a number of Aleut phrases or words that I've incorporated into it. And, there are a few that are carved into the woodblock themselves, but again, those will be in reverse because of the nature of woodblock printing. So, one of the phrases is “Coming up in the daylight.” But as I say, it all revolves around the vastness returned by this place.

This transcript was lightly edited for purposes of clarity.

Sofia was born and raised in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. She’s reported around the U.S. for local public radio stations, NPR and National Native News. Sofia has a Master of Arts in Environmental Science and Natural Resource Journalism from the University of Montana, a graduate certificate in Documentary Studies from the Salt Institute and a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Arts from the University of Colorado Boulder. In between her studies, Sofia was a ski bum in Telluride, Colorado for a few years.
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