Richard Olanna

Inupiaq artist Richard Olanna was born on February 15, 1962 in Shishmaref, Alaska. This small spit of land is located 110 miles north of Nome, Alaska, in the Bering Sea. Most the residents of Shishmaref live a subsistence lifestyle using materials from the land as well as hunting seals and caribou. Fossilized whalebone carving is an old Inupiaq art form known to exist in the culture for over 2,000 years.

Richard has been carving for over 20 years. He learned to carve from his father, Elliot Olanna. Richard’s large whalebone jaw and rib sculptures usually portray hunters, dancers and/or fisherman in transformation with an animal form. The human faces on many of his sculptures depict the facial features of his father, Elliott.

Richard uses the vertebrae and scapula bone of the whale, combing the beaches searching for pieces of whalebones suitable for his artwork. Like his father, Richard’s work may be found in museums, galleries and is frequently sought after by collectors.


Hunter with Spear
Hunter with Spear by Richard Olanna