Art Seen: Photo finish — Picking favorites a tough task

By Zirrus VanDevere, for the Redoubt Reporter

"Current Riders" by Sandra Sterling.

“Current Riders” by Sandra Sterling.

The brilliant thing about Joe Kashi’s most recent idea for an exhibit at the Kenai Fine Arts Center is that the judges have already done their work, and the artists have already done theirs. Pieces by local photographers that have previously been accepted into statewide photography exhibits — Rarified Light and Alaska Positive — over the last seven years were eligible to be entered into “Refined Light,” showing through December in Gallery One.

The result is a distinct, cream-of-the-crop sort of show, and although the judges were many and varied, the high quality of the exhibit is tough to dispute.

Just for fun, I thought I might try and judge the exhibit a final time, which turned out to be more difficult than I’d bargained for. There are so many really fine pieces in this show that I ended up with a lot of placers, and a long list of honorable mentions. It helps to remember that I am only one person, and also that it was often only one person who judged these pieces in the first place to be worthy of inclusion in the statewide shows.

These are artists and photography that I am familiar with and, like anyone else, I have certain biases and aesthetic tastes and preferences.

To William Heath’s “Floating” I give best of show. Every time I see this work, it never ceases to transport me to someplace magical. “Deep Illumination,” by Sue Biggs, is more spiritual than magical, per se, but the combination of meaningful subject matter with an excellent eye for composition, lighting and dramatic effect brings it, in my mind, a distinct first place.

The subtle sensuousness and extremely professional handling of  “Dimond Hotel #1,” by Kashi, brings it a solid second place (it got an honorable mention in the 2011 Rarified Light show), and Jay Barrett’s intense portrait of a group of the wet but still majestic birds in “Eagles in the Banya” nets my third place (it received the juror’s choice best in show in 2009).

For fourth place, I think I need to give kudos to Clayton Hillhouse for his striking shot of a religious female statue in “Silence,” and can’t help but proclaim a tie between Sandra Sterling’s “Current Riders” and Linda Smogor’s “Claire” for fifth. They are both exquisite black and whites on canvas displaying a wide range of tonal values and inviting and lyrical structure.

The long list of honorable mentions include: “Seward Heavy,” “Light” and “Images of Home,” by William Heath; “Off the Grid,” by Pat Lytle; “Grewingk Glacier #1,” by M. Scott Moon; “At the Crossing Restaurant” and “Homer Beach,” by Joe Kashi; “Lines of Force,” by Rick Cupp; “Curb Appeal,” by Tracie Howard; “Soul of a McIntosh (Apple)” and “Bartlett Pear,” by John Demske; “Danza” and “Norm’s Shop,” by Sue Biggs; and Ray Lee’s “Frozen Window.”

"Has Braces" by Sarah Jane Baisden

“Has Braces” by Sarah Jane Baisden

I don’t think I will go on to judge the awesome kids’ show in Gallery Two (that was exhausting!), but I will mention some of my very favorites. Some of the pieces have ages listed and others do not, so my thoughts were simply guided by pure attraction to the various images, and not by any determination of skill level.

“…has Braces,” by Sarah Jane Baisden, really seems to capture what it might be like to be young and wear braces on your teeth, and the strength of pure emotion in “Self Portrait,” by Alisabeth Dilucchio, and pure joy evident in “Daphne,” by

"Daphne" by Cooper Collier

“Daphne” by Cooper Collier

Cooper Collier, invite special attention.

“Bird Flight Accessories,” by Indigo Leslie, is just happy making, as is a mixed-media piece by Ella Rankin called “Sunflower,” and the nicely designed watercolor “Summer,” by Sophia Micciche. Colton Rankin’s sculpture titled “River Flats,” Sarah Baktuit’s “Red Wolf,” Caitlin McCullough’s “Spring After Spring,” Jordan Ruffner’s mixed-media flowers, and “The Mountains,” by Braydon Gagnon, all caught my eye as especially well-done works of art.

Both exhibits should be up for the rest of the month, and are well worth taking a trip to see.

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.

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