By Zirrus VanDevere, for the Redoubt Reporter
When I head to a juried watercolor exhibit, I am always wishing there will be something different and dangerous to greet me, but the medium itself lends itself more to serene and quiet work, and there are usually few surprises to be had. But I am almost always impressed with the level of discipline I see from the watercolorists of this area, especially because of the sheer difficulty of this medium.
In a piece like “Let’s Dance,” by Kathryn Thomas Joyce, my hope is renewed. Joyce has managed to make her painting both pattern and portrait. Wispy red fireweed wiggles this way and that and almost merges with the rich and luminous background. It is generally best to let a certain amount of the paper remain untouched by paint so that the image doesn’t get muddied, but this painting is so skillfully subtle it breaks those rules. The muted application is perfect for the enticing effect, and I really would change nothing about it.
Another saturated and inviting piece is Michael Murray’s “Fog Pocket East Spit,”
which he has worked in a very wet manner and has allowed the paint a lot of freedom. His sharp lines on the mountains help to keep it from becoming too ambiguous, and the sparse strokes of cobalt really make the predominant oranges pop.
He is much tighter, but very accomplished, in his “A Walk in Seldovia.” Cabins and boardwalks and other hard-to-render elements come off as easy under his brush. There is just enough looseness to keep it from feeling pretentious, and just enough complexity to impress.
Both Pam Mersch and Ann Mercer are able to describe the natural environment without overdoing the pigment in
“Mt. Redoubt” and “Kasilof Spruce,” respectively. Like good music, the quality often comes in the silent spaces between the notes.
AnnLillian Schell has not overdone her desert pea, though I would prefer if the composition avoided having the main subject directly in the center of the image. Her background wash is lovely and free, and she is bold and confident with the deeper hues, ultimately creating a nice contrast to the wash.
Melinda Hershberger has done a nice job with “Our River is Through There,” achieving some of the type of subtlety present in Joyce’s work, though I find the handling of the trees to be a bit overly bold and too similar. Her practiced skill is evident in all she does, but I find her best work is done when she
lets go a little and trusts the medium more.
“Vortex,” by Donna Schwanke-Cooper, chronicles a huddle during an adult baseball game, and she has rendered each jersey and cap carefully. I’m not picking up on an especially emotional or tension-filled event, so I’m thinking the image serves mostly as an illustration of some kind. Her ability in this arena just gets more honed and refined every time I see new work from her, and the progression is admirable.
Barbara Lavalle juried this show, and the placements are as follows:
- Best of Show: Melinda Hershberger.
- First Place: Donna Schwanke-Cooper.
- Second Place: Georg-Anne Phillips.
- Third Place: Michael Murray.
The watercolor show and the social issues exhibit in Gallery Two will be up for the rest of November at the Kenai Fine Arts Center.
Zirrus VanDevere is the exhibits and cultural coordinator at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center. She has bachelor’s degrees in fine arts and education.