By Zirrus VanDevere, for the Redoubt Reporter
Kenai Peninsula College has a few new teachers included in this year’s faculty exhibit, running now at the Gary L. Freeburg Gallery at KPC’s Kenai River Campus. Overall, it is a conservative exhibit, but certainly proficient and discipline-based.
The first images that grab my attention are two large works by Jeff Siemers, positioned directly across from each other on the facing sidewalls of the gallery. He has been working with layering materials, usually involving photography and, in this case, markers applied directly to slick, abstract photos that float off of the wall and are reminiscent of outer space travel. The very purposeful feeling of movement created by the flowing lines of marker seem to depict an experience much more elaborate than a single event captured on film.
Although this semester is only the second Siemers has taught at KPC, he has been in Alaska for a decade, and recently finished his master’s of fine arts degree at Azusa Pacific University in California. These works were part of his thesis exhibit, and represent a long search into layering media. I have the sense that his explorations are not anywhere near over. His work is quite media-driven, and the course he is teaching this semester deals with 2-D digital art and graphic design.
A complete newbie to the scene, Richard Eissler has had a career of commercial advertising photography, and even close family members will be surprised at his exhibition of fine art. He has several black-and-white images on display, using a brand-new, platinum metallic paper and a traditional type C process (the kind your basic nondigital color photographs use). The paper enhances the medium range grays, and his photographs simply pop with detail. My very favorite is an essential abstract, shot from an airplane window 500 feet off the ground during a trip to Prince William Sound.
The pilot was making tight circles above the Chugach Mountains reaching for altitude, and the ensuing image is strangely angled and amazingly sharp. Originally from Fresno, Calif., Eissler has studied with Ansel Adams in seminars, and more intensively with Bertil Brink, learning, among other things, to expose his images for the shadows, and then develop them for the highlights. He is teaching black-and-white photography this semester. It is so good to know the darkroom there will be in use again.
Melinda Hershberger has an illustration of a bright red car in the exhibit, and is involved with painting workshops held on the campus. William Heath, a Photoshop instructor, has a solid showing and his image, “St. Andrews,” tells an interesting story, as does Heath himself. He recently returned from a long trek through the mountains adjoining the Yukon Territory, and brought back intriguing images of the only remaining building from a boomtown era along the Chilkoot trail near Bennett Lake. The building has rough-cut logs laid in a random, angled pattern, and Bill has utilized a limited exposure on a sunny day to get incredibly rich blacks surrounding the pristine white of the painted window frames and the multifaceted and complex texture of the natural wood. It seems to be a building with a strong personality, and Heath has captured it well. Apparently, the Canadian Park Service maintains the structure, basically using it as a garage, and he found he was unable to venture inside for some internal portraits of the building.
Speaking of portraits, Joy Fall’s expressive sculpture in marble, “Phoebe,” is dynamic from every view, but the most inviting side has a nearly central hole that calls a viewer inward. The polished surface of the rock is juxtaposed with the rough hewn and jagged marks made by the artist, leaving one wondering about the mysterious Phoebe, and what she might be like.
Another exciting portrait is one done by the director of the art department, Celia Anderson. Part of her “Family Album Series,” it is a loosely rendered image of herself and a friend, an obviously adored horse. She speaks of the animal as a clear symbol of the place that home is for her, and can find herself transported back into time by simply experiencing the scent of hay. In the process of creating the series, however, she learned that Alaska has also assuredly become her home, a realization I am familiar with as I have spent at least half of my life here, as she has, and have it deeply embedded in my heart. Anderson instructs in painting, drawing and fiber artistry.
Interestingly, one of the strongest images is basically the subtlest. Jayne Jones knew that she wanted to capture scenes from a nearby graveyard when she was traveling in the Lower 48 recently. She thought she had missed the chance at utilizing some fog that had rolled through when she was unable to get there, but miraculously, and atypically, got her opportunity just two days later.
The quick response paid off, and she was able to grab “Misty Mourning,” a landscape of a deceptively simple graveyard scene. Delicate flowers, and even more delicate cobweb, fill the lower part of the shot, but the fog creates an emerging glow that pulls one away from the solid, earthy foreground into a world of light and transcendence. There is a feeling of acceptance implied, and of beautiful horizons imbued with tranquility.
Jones will be teaching an online digital photography class this semester.
The faculty exhibit will be on display through Sept. 15.
Etched in tradition
Carver Jerry Anderson brings experience from many parts of the country as the highlighted artist of the month at Tikahtnu Gallery, in the Mooring Plaza in Soldotna.
His love of Alaska and the beauty evident in nature resonates within his antler carvings that depict bear, salmon, wolves and eagles. He’s been carving for 20 years, the last 10 professionally, on a variety of media; most often soapstone, moose antler and fossil ivory.
He lives in the area, fishing and then smoking the fish in the summers, and has studied the carving discipline in the villages of Nuiqsut, Barrow and on St. Lawrence Island.
I find I am attracted most to the simplest of carvings, although the skill evident in the more complicated pieces is worth noting. A small antler with a goose head carved into the base feels like a fetish of sorts, imbuing the work with a magical quality that many of the more intricately worked items do not have.
I love to see work done in this medium that feels ageless and that could have been created at any time during the last few millennium.
Zirrus VanDevere is a local mixed-media artist and owns Art Works gallery in Soldotna. She has bachelor’s degrees in fine arts and education.