By Zirrus VanDevere, for the Redoubt Reporter
The Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center is gearing up for its big summertime art show that opens Friday with a catered gala bash. “Alaska 2012: A Celebration of Wildlife Art” is the third time wildlife has taken center stage for the summer art show at the center.
Curated once again by Dr. David Wartinbee, who is an avid collector of wildlife art, the participating artist list reads like a who’s who in the wildlife art world. In fact, Carl Brenders has four original pieces in this exhibit — one of which was created expressly for this show and has not even been seen by his own publisher. It is called “Two Curious Bear Cubs” and is truly exquisite.
Carl Brenders is the undisputed master of this particular genre. He goes beyond realism and into a realm where the elements portrayed come alive before your eyes — every rock, every lichen, and the branches of every tree. Representing detail to a maximum, his compositional skills and color sensibilities are beyond mere talent. He uses a combination of acrylic and gouache, and literally paints every hair and twig.
He also has a large caribou painting called “Tundra Challengers” that has already been
purchased by Canadian collectors who were willing to let the piece be in the show, as well as the detailed drawing studies of each of the grand works.
Other pieces in this exhibit that particularly drew my eye are a couple of oil paintings of foxes by Julie T. Chapman, both showing rendering talent and a love for the subject — frisky, playful, beautifully coated critters. Most of the frames in this show are over the top, but Chapman and Brenders have chose substantial, yet very classy mouldings, to frame their work. Also nicely framed and highlighting remarkable drawing skill and control, Cole Johnson’s graphite renderings are inspiring and intense.
James Morgan has some nice, painterly effect in his pieces, and I like the intimacy of “Spruce Palace,” which is an oil on linen of juncos on snowy spruce boughs. In both of his offerings he honors the paint medium by giving it some free reign, not just manipulating it for an illustrative purpose. Gail Niebrugge’s large “Wing Dancing” is also expressive and has a lot of freeness and movement in it.
David Kitler’s “Pica Study” is a completed illustration that is a lot of fun to look at, with
incredible detail and ample personality. Larry Peckstein has certainly gone beyond photographic reproduction with his tall acrylic “Family Time — Canada Geese.” The aggressive softening of the background and the crystal-clear markings on the geese are a lovely contrast, and the vertical emphasis of both the tall necks and the shape of the canvas give the piece a lofty stature.
Dan Smith’s polar bear might be breathing down your neck, the mist from its breath is so convincing. His depiction of the bear is strikingly realistic and, although the piece is not large, it feels large in its statement. I’m not really sure what happened with what must be a rock on the ground behind him (it looks sort of brainlike to me), but everyone’s a critic, right? And even a critic of uber-realism has got to see that this is an exhibit of grand proportion that has some pretty wonderful offerings, and is overall a really solid show.
The reception Friday is free and open to the public and will have a no-host bar and
musical entertainment by Just We Two, a jazzy, local, laid-back duo. After that, there will be a $5 fee to see the exhibit, but it’s good enough that I wouldn’t be surprised if locals take every visitor they host to it throughout the summer. It runs until Sept. 3, and locals will have a shot at securing any of these originals before the lot goes up for grabs online at http://www.artskenai.com at 9 a.m. Monday morning. There are collectors of these artists’ work who will be waiting for their chance at owning some of these pieces, so my advice is, if you find you love it, don’t hesitate.
Zirrus VanDevere is a local mixed-media artist and owns Art Works. She has bachelor’s degrees in fine arts and education.