Phillip John Charette
Cama-I (Hello!) My English name is Phillip John Charette and my Alaskan Native Yup’ik name is Aarnarquq. I am of Yup’ik and French Canadian descent. Aarnarquq, in Yup’ik means “the one who is dangerous because tuuriuq (he uses spirit power).”
Although I hold degrees from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Harvard University in education and administration, I have always been an artist. Yet, it was not until recently, that I began to consider art as a career. In 2001, I took a deep breath and decided to become a professional Yup’ik artist specializing in Yup’ik Art and Native Musical Instruments.
I am currently focusing my artwork on bringing some of the old traditional Yup’ik dance masks back into the world with my own contemporary interpretations and have added a twist. Traditional Yup’ik dance masks were made with wood and stained with clay. I am now making masks out of clay and giving them a wood and organic finish. The highest compliment I can receive is from woodworkers who ask me what kind of wood I use; I answer with a smile. As my work evolves and after I have reintroduced some of the old traditional masks, I will begin to create more of my own personal mask designs and follow in the footsteps of my Yup’ik namesake Aarnarquq; a traditional Angalkuq, “shaman or healer.”