By Zirrus VanDevere, for the Redoubt Reporter
I’ve been coffee-shop hopping in Soldotna again, and found photography at both the Kaladi Brothers on Kobuk Street and Odie’s Deli, Kathy Matta’s amazing natural lacquer fish (that I’ve already reviewed) at the Kaladi Brothers on the Sterling Highway, and a grouping of mostly watercolors, with a few pastel renderings thrown in for good measure, at the Cottonwood Clinic gallery on Marydale Avenue.
Stephanie Snyder, whose work is on display at Kaladi Brothers on Kobuk, moved here in 1999 from Montana and has long been interested in photography, even winning first prize at a local fair while in high school in Montana.
There was an awful lot to take in, and I found a few that particularly caught my attention. Her captures of old cars were enjoyable, and
especially fun because she wasn’t shy about filling the frame with them, although I can’t help but think that even tighter shots with more varying angles might have been interesting.
Easily my favorite piece was a shot at a pier. The composition is good and the texture is fantastic. Rusty metal, corroded wooden planks, choppy water with an exposition on texture — the image is basically duotoned (gray and a deep maroon) and quite successful. Her barn-wood frames on some of the pieces are quite quaint. I am hoping, though, that folks realize that framing photography right up against glass risks moisture trapping, and should not be used for any long-term framing needs.
About half of her photographs included matting in the framing, which is all that is necessary to avoid the moisture risk. (Some photos
are printed on porous paper, and do not need to follow that rule.)
Carrie Coombes decided to forgo framing altogether and came up with a really cute way to display her photographs at Odie’s. She used old-fashioned clothes hangers, and the effect is novel and interesting. Many of the photos hang a little crooked, which I guess kind of adds to the rustic effect. She’s got a sunset shot where nearly all of the picture is nearly solid dark foreground, which I found to be very brave, and a horizontal landscape of a skiff in a bay that metaphorically sort of feels like home.
At Cottonwood gallery, I was a little overwhelmed with flowers, but found that both Gwen Thomas’ “Weeds” and Melinda Hershberger’s “Last Lillies” were exciting and captured my attention. They were both a tad loose, with high contrast and extra personality.
Pam Mersch’s pastel renderings just keep getting better all the time (especially her portrait of “Chris,” who seems to be a character
and a half, as they say). Sherril Miller offered an unusually chaotic but quite wonderful mixed-media piece called “Spires of Hope.”
Jan Sherwood’s simple watercolors were peaceful and understated, and Georg-Anne Phillips’ graphic bird renderings were sweet, though not nearly as confident as I’ve seen her work in the past. Colleen M. Smagge did a small watercolor of a moose in winter that was effective in evoking that serene scene we are so familiar with up here, and “Berry Splash” by Hershberger is truly aptly named.
Donna Schwanke-Cooper won my heart with an abstract watercolor called “Transition,” which I found to be perfectly titled and rich with emotion and playfulness. I know I’ve felt that way before, and the memory of it is both disconcerting and exciting, and a little bit raw.
Zirrus VanDevere is a local mixed-media artist and the exhibits and cultural coordinator at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center. She has bachelor’s degrees in fine arts and education.