Art Seen: Revising self — Artists recycle imagery, identities in joint show

By Zirrus VanDevere, for the Redoubt Reporter

Kathryn Zerbe and one of her mixed-media masks, which are on display in September at Kaladi Brothers on Kobuk.

It is good for an active artist to have an exhibit scheduled in the near future, as it tends to motivate toward production and push beyond concept. Most artists I know are continually pondering bodies of work or new avenues to explore with their art, and even a slot at a local coffee shop can be enough to set an awful lot of creativity in motion.

I’ve been wanting to do a series of portraits from live sittings and interesting photographs for years, and I truly thought it was finally time to do so when I agreed to take the September opening at the Kaladi Brothers on Kobuk Street in Soldotna. As they say, “Life is what happens when we are making other plans,” and I found that illness from a debilitating parasite, and then a closure of my gallery, took up any of the time that might have been used in such a way.

Plan B included a significantly less-strenuous project, involving repurposed photographic panels and some 30-year-old glossy paint meant for touching up metal frames that I’ve been considering busting out for about 20 of those years. In truth, very little of what I choose to do with my art is arbitrary. The panels were part of another coffee shop exhibit that documented for me a pivot point in my life, and the paint I added feels like journal entries describing the freedom, joy and trials I’ve experienced since that critical time. Two of the matted and framed photos from that original series are included, displaying the textural, dirty and archetypal underbelly pipes of Brooklyn.

Kathryn Zerbe is an artist who also is on a spiritual trajectory, documenting and allowing

Photography of industrial pipes in Brooklyn were re-purposed into Zirrus VanDevere’s mixed-media pieces, below, on display at Kaladi Brothers.

expression to a wide range of experiences, health difficulties and growth. In all of the years I’ve known her, she has never been stagnant or trite, choosing instead to push herself to the edge of her comfort zone, laying bare her inner travels so that others can benefit, as well. It is a process of communication as well as of self-care, and self-care is an integral theme to the mixed-media masks she’s presented as a complement to my work at Kaladi. Ricola wrappers left over from treating the dry throat her sleep apnea has caused, medicine bottle caps from treating breast cancer and even Netflix refuse become beautiful found objects that adorn her intricate self-portraits.

Zerbe has always been a conscientious recycler and repurposer, and the items she’s chosen to incorporate are the dross of life that can’t even be recycled or very well reused, except as art. The care and love she’s supplied while compiling these visual stories tells us a lot about what kind of a person she is, as do the visual puns and continual cleverness you will find therein.

Zerbe has created art in the past that was certainly original, but more geared for market success. She says that the work in this exhibit is the kind that is a byproduct of her life as a creator; things that just have to be said, and be done, regardless of who might be taking it all in.

We have always appreciated each other’s personages and artistic endeavors, but only recently have detected how very similar our creative and transcendent ambitions are, so it seems perfectly aligned that these intensely personal pieces for each of us would end up in a joint show at this time.

The concept of “Becoming Gold” has been deeply rooted in each of our paths in the last decade and a half. I’ve often related the process to the alchemy of gross and heavy metals: Mercury to silver and lead into gold, or the act of refining of an individual into something precious and timeless, molecule by molecule. In our discussion, Zerbe quoted Job 23:10 as an important guiding concept. “For He knows the way I take. And when He has tried me I shall come forth as gold.”

The exhibit will open with a reception at Kaladi Brothers on Sept. 6 and will remain up for the rest of the month.

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.

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2 Comments

Filed under art, Art Seen

2 responses to “Art Seen: Revising self — Artists recycle imagery, identities in joint show

  1. Linda Jarvi

    Really cool article, Kathy! I’m so glad we reconnected via fb. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other but I really do think of you often and am happy that we share a common bond in art and art appreciation. Have a great show!! :) Linda Jarvi

  2. Kathy – I’ve still not gotten over to see your pieces, but hope to do so this weekend. Kathy, I think the greatest compliment that I could give you is that my best friend, Vesta, would have LOVED these pieces. I’m sorry she won’t get to see them. Zirrus, great write up of a couple of great gals!

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