By Zirrus VanDevere, for the Redoubt Reporter
To me, an artist is one who takes in the world attentively and then offers something back in some sort of creative form that has been filtered through that artist’s particular awareness. And to me, the world benefits greatly from the efforts of those willing to pay attention, and willing to share it.
Sue Biggs and Richard Bornengo have solo exhibits running concurrently at the Kenai Fine Arts Center, and it doesn’t take long to recognize that these are observant artists who have something valid to offer us.
Bornengo’s work is in the front gallery space, and his style is mostly impressionistic and impasto (heavy brushstrokes that raise from the surface of the canvas). He uses a lot of white oil paint, and it gives his work a creamy and bright quality that suits his subject matter. All but one of his paintings are set in Alaska (one being from France, his native country), and he captures the cool, crisp air and subtle landscapes that make this area so amazingly gorgeous in the winters.
A nice example of this is “Xmas in Cohoe,” in which the little houses and leaf-free trees are handled in a way that is tender and reverent, creating a scene that is both aesthetic and emotionally inviting. He works diligently on his pieces until they say exactly what he is trying to express, all the while retaining the curiosity of a child.
Biggs comes off as quite curious, as well. Although her medium is photography, rather than oil paint, she has a sensitively to subject matter and her own experience of it that seems precocious for a person somewhat newly engaged with making fine-art images using photography.
“Quiet Meditation” captures a man oblivious to the camera and deep in thought. He sits sideways at the end of a pew in a
church, and the light streaming in around him is severe and magical, telling the story of meaningful and varied contemplations. Biggs has managed to include, just inside the frame, the contemporary wooden cross that hangs so beautifully at Christ Lutheran Church in Soldotna, and it is lit up just enough to be relevant to the image.
Even if I didn’t recognize the setting, her incredible sense of space and composition, as well as her ability to allow her deepest sensibilities to inform her image-capturing, has combined in this piece to make a truly inspiring statement.
She calls her exhibit “Reflectionsm,” and that theme has a strong current throughout the show. Whether or not she is actually the subject being reflected in the various windows and surfaces, her nature certainly is. The competing textures and sense of humor available in all of her pieces describe an artist not only able to recognize truth in the world she inhabits, but also able to bring those truths forward from deep within her being.
Biggs also offers other enjoyable surprises, like mobiles and poetry, and an installation called “Self Portrait with Autumn Foliage” that feels modern at the same time that it feels very, very old.
This place is a phenomenally beautiful place, and I’m thankful to artists who can remind me how much so through their own unique way of encountering, filtering and presenting it.
Zirrus VanDevere is a local mixed-media artist. She has bachelor’s degrees in fine arts and education.