By Zirrus VanDevere, for the Redoubt Reporter
This is the first year that the summer visual arts show at the Kenai Visitors and
Cultural Center was juried rather than invitational, and also the first time informational displays have been incorporated so extensively right into the exhibit space.
We get to see two and three pieces from the same artist in some cases, and we get more of a taste of the curator’s vision, as everything showing has been literally handpicked.
Often in a large invitational show there are at least one or two pieces that are sort of shocking. Not in a Robert Mapplethorpe or Andres Serrano kind of way, but in a way that makes the viewers, and especially the curator, wonder what the heck the artist could have been thinking by entering it.
There are some really fantastic pieces in this exhibit, and none of them are actually disappointing, which is saying a lot.
“Spawned,” a cast-iron sculpture in the round by Hugh McPeck, is mesmerizing and essential in its simplicity, which is something I feel I can also say about “Remnants,” a mixed-media work on paper by Tina Shih. While McPeck’s rudimentary shape is the crescent and Shih’s is a rectangle, both have an archetypally absent center where the silence defines the gravity of the meaning that can be inferred. It’s as if each piece has been distilled until the truest part of the truth remains intact.
All three of Kathy Smith’s understated, supertextural abstracts are appealing to me, and Thor Evenson offers a couple of really solid representations of his experiences with boats and fishing, done in his characteristic heavily outlined and witty way. Stone lithographs and a large colorful abstract by Jim Evenson are exhibited side by side with intricate Japanese ink drawings done by Fred Anderson, and they really do seem to be two sides of a similar coin. Both artists handle their subjects masterfully, and while Evenson’s work seems to glorify the natural (while questioning the human impulse at times), Anderson seems to want to gawk at the foreignness of man in nature altogether.
Deland Anderson’s pieces strike me as very much like Australian dot-drawings,
which sometimes can offer few surprises. But there is something alluring and almost mystical about “Snowsnake.” I am certain that some of that is my attachment to this amazing Kenai Peninsula we both inhabit, but some is clearly due to really fine attention to detail and composition, and a lovely symbolism.
The two abstracts by KN Goodrich remind me of Graham Dane’s work, and are joyful to look at, and Will Harper has entered a piece full of wit and familiarity. He shows us two hands configured in a way to explain where he lives in Alaska, pointing to a circle that represents the Kenai Peninsula while spawning salmon swim in a tight bunch below floating words in the background. Also framing the moment caught in time is Mount Redoubt in all of its purplish majesty.
I really enjoy the very wide and skinny “Flock” by Jannah Atkins, and all of
Zhanna Lukyanova’s black and whites, but especially “Sky High,” which lets us in to an extreme close-up of ice that feels monumental because of its handling. I’m also intrigued and delighted by Justine Pechuzal’s ink and watercolor rendering on hand-dyed paper. It’s titled “Tonsina September,” which holds absolutely no meaning for me, but the drawing is rich, dynamic and quite moving.
Pieces I’ve mentioned in other columns are still as wonderful as they were the first time I saw them: Erica Miller’s glorious pastel “Hoarfrost No. 4,” Joy Falls’ found-object construct “Connections” and Connie Tarbox’s alabaster carving “So Fragile.” Miller’s other pastel, “Deep,” is also pretty splendid, and I find the chunky gold frames like those you find all over the MOMA and the Metropolitan are perfect for them.
I really enjoyed being able to see the historical objects interspersed, and found them to be generally as interesting and visually appealing as much of the art.
“Intersecting Journeys” will be on view until Sept. 24 and is well worth the small admission price.
Zirrus VanDevere is a local mixed-media artist and owns Art Works. She has bachelor’s degrees in fine arts and education.