Category Archives: Art Seen

Home, where the art is — Auction is legacy of arts in the area

Artwork by Zirrus VanDevere, including this piece that began as a sort of travelogue of her trip to Alaska in 1988, and work by other area artists will be up for auction at a Artistic Revelry and Art Auction Celebration at 7 p.m. Saturday at Triumvirate Theatre.

Artwork by Zirrus VanDevere, including this piece that began as a sort of travelogue of her trip to Alaska in 1988, and work by other area artists will be up for auction at a Artistic Revelry and Art Auction Celebration at 7 p.m. Saturday at Triumvirate Theatre.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Five young, hippie artists and two cats spending six weeks driving cross-country in a 1977 Dodge Aspen pulling a Nimrod pop-up trailer, heading from New York to Alaska in 1988.

That backdrop alone paints quite the lively picture, one that artist Zirrus VanDevere mined for inspiration years later in one of her favorite mixed-media pieces. It and much more artwork, by VanDevere and others, will be up for auction Saturday in an art celebration at Triumvirate Theatre.

The auction is a sort of goodbye — for now, at least — to Alaska, as VanDevere has been in New York the last two years to be with her ailing father. So it’s fitting to include a piece that represents her journey to the state.

She and her friends were barely out of college, with barely any money between them and not much more in the way of a plan to get to their loosely chosen destination — Kasilof, where the sister of VanDevere’s boyfriend, later husband, was living.

“It was a bizarre experience,” she said. “We had so many circumstances that could have gone wrong, and it didn’t. We had some good mojo going.”

The tape deck in the car catching fire, prompting everyone to bail out through the car’s windows, as they’d become accustomed to doing on the two doors that stuck, even though two other doors worked just fine.

VanDevere window frameThe most straight-laced police officer letting their hippie mobile go without a ticket, merely the addition of two dangling flashlights to serve as rear trailer lights.

A border guard wanting to inspect everything in the car and trailer — which would have required a mammoth feat of unpacking, and perhaps some creative explaining. But the guard got so invested in helping search for the cat that bolted in the process that, once reunited, they were sent on their way, unsearched.

The theme of the trip was precipitation. There was a drought across the Lower 48 that year, yet every time they stopped to camp, it rained within a day or two.

“We visited with the neighbors (at a campsite in the Dakotas),” she said. “They said, ‘It’s so hot, it’s so dry!’ We’re like, ‘Don’t worry, it’s coming!’ We left in a hailstorm, I kid you not, and then it poured for days. We were like, ‘OK, time to move on, it’s raining.’”

Getting to the Kenai Peninsula, though, was more precipitous than precipitation.

“In my mind I was thinking I’d keep going. ‘Siberia, Russia, Europe — OK, I can see that, that could be interesting.’ But within a month I was looking for land. I was instantly smitten. I didn’t move five miles from where we dropped down, not five,” she said. Continue reading

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Long looks — First impressions worthy of lengthy contemplation in statewide juried show

Best in Show, “Found in a Cave, Madonna and Child,” by Kathy Matta.

Best in Show, “Found in a Cave, Madonna and Child,” by Kathy Matta.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Nikiski’s Jim Evenson brings an extensive resume to the role of juror for the 2014 all-media statewide juried art show at the Kenai Fine Arts Center — lifelong experience as an artist, retired art teacher, master’s degrees in art and painting and a sabbatical to Spain to learn stone lithography form a celebrated career in several mediums with awards and distinctions gained in Alaska, the U.S. and beyond.

Yet for all that history, it took him five seconds or less to pick Best in Show and some of the other award winners among the 40 pieces on display this month at the center.

It’s something he learned from his art teacher in college.

“They said that a psychologist had decided that the first five seconds that you look at a piece you decide whether you like it or not. And you can spend the rest of your life trying to decide why,” he said.

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Art Seen: Art of lifelong learning — KPC students class up art center in annual show

" A Sideways Glance," acrylic, by Sandra Sterling.

” A Sideways Glance,” acrylic, by Sandra Sterling.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Lifelong learning is a valuable approach no matter the subject, but, perhaps, none so much as in art.

The evolution of artwork is as old as cave paintings and stone artifacts, and is constantly expanding. There are endless mediums, styles, techniques and materials to learn, invent, refine and redefine. And an artists’ personal inspiration and need for expression ceases only with their existence. Until then, there’s something to learn at any stage in an artist’s development, from the first time holding a brush to their first career retrospective show, and every point in between and beyond.

Sherri Sather is closer to the latter end of that spectrum. She doesn’t need to take an art class as a med student would an anatomy course. She already is an established artist, experienced in various mediums and successful in showing her work — she’s even had work purchased through the Rasmuson Foundation Art Acquisition Fund. But she learned long ago that there’s always more to learn, evidenced by two of her pieces hanging in a Kenai Peninsula College student art show at the Kenai Fine Arts Center this month.

"Reaching," plaster, by Alex Springer.

“Reaching,” plaster, by Alex Springer.

“It gives you different perspectives, which is really good, and I think just about anybody could benefit from an art class, whether they’re just beginners or not,” Sather said.

Sather, who moved to the Kenai Peninsula in 1971, has been taking art classes periodically for years, since her first spark in art class at Kenai Central High School. Some classes have been at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, while most were at Kenai Peninsula College.

The general idea of an art class is technique. Learn to paint, draw, sculpt, shoot photos, make batik, work with encaustics, or what have you. And that’s certainly part of it, especially in beginner classes. But for Sather, the appeal isn’t so much learning new skills as being challenged to put her skills to new and different use.

“I’ve been taking classes off and on my whole life. It has been really instrumental in me getting my voice in my painting,” she said.

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Art Seen: Rare views alight — Statewide photo show highlights curiosity

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

The Alaska Photographic Center’s “Rarefied Light” statewide juried photography exhibition has a reputation as a contemporary show leaning toward abstract, manipulated or otherwise nontraditional art shots. Given that, the assumption might be that it skews toward newer photographers —whippersnappers being so avant-garde, and all.

Not so. The 2013 traveling exhibition, on display through Feb. 5 at the Gary L. Freeburg Gallery at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus, displays the work of some longtime, experienced photographers in the state, including three from the central Kenai Peninsula.

Magical things happen when a practiced hand combines with an exploratory mind. Experimentation, whether with technique or perspective, opens up new frontiers of imagery, a freshness that can be particularly relished by photographers who are decades into wielding a camera.

Greg Daniels, of Kenai, has been photographing the Kenai Peninsula since moving here in 1969, and founded the Kenai Peninsula Photographers Guild 20 years ago. He’s shot the mountains, he’s shot the rivers, he’s shot the Kenai beach — more times than he can count.

“I’ve tried timed exposures with the waves coming in and shooting through ice holes at sunset and waves superimposed over one another and shooting by starlight,” Daniels said.

"Ice Eggs" by Greg Daniels

“Ice Eggs” by Greg Daniels

New techniques reinvigorate his interest, whether he’s trying them out himself or teaching them at a photo guild workshop. His latest interest has been light painting, and his success with the technique gained him entry into the 2013 “Rarefied Light” show with “Ice Eggs,” shot at the Kenai beach.

“I’d never even applied to ‘Rarefied Light,’ before, and I thought, ‘You know, this is exactly what it’s all about. If this isn’t ‘Rarefied Light,’ I don’t know what is.’ It’s very nontraditional,” Daniels said.

The volcanoes across Cook Inlet stand in dark relief against a strip of orange-and-red sunset, beneath a canopy of dissipating clouds. Nighttime seems to progress across the frame, with the grayish-blue water of Cook Inlet running aground against a frozen beach so dim that even the patches of snow have lost their luminosity. That makes a group of rounded chunks of tide-beached ice all the more striking, as they shine so bright they seem to be powered by some hidden source of electricity.

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Instruments of creativity — Woodworker carves out interest in making music makers

Photos courtesy of Joe Kashi. Tim Gale, of Soldotna, and his handmade didgeridoos, cigar box guitars and wood drums on display at the Kenai Fine Arts Center in December.

Photos courtesy of Joe Kashi. Tim Gale, of Soldotna, and his handmade didgeridoos, cigar box guitars and wood drums on display at the Kenai Fine Arts Center in December.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

One might assume that a guitar maker is a guitar player. One would be flat wrong. But that doesn’t mean the maker doesn’t know B flat from A major, or lacks interest in the other intricacies of music.

In the case of Tim Gale, of Soldotna, it’s the very broadness of his interest in music that drew him into instrument making — not only an enjoyment of listening to and participating in music, but a fascination with instruments’ history, culture and engineering.

“It’s this worldwide phenomenon of music we as people just need to have. I think that’s the fun part of it,” said Gale, who handcrafts drums, didgeridoos and cigar box instruments. “That’s the fascinating part of it.”

Guitar types of instruments developed in India, China, Spain and elsewhere — with different sounds and designs, but with enough similarities to bridge those cultural divides. Same with drums, which emerged independently in cultures across the globe, but all coming from a universal human desire for rhythm and music. That universality of connection speaks particularly strongly to Gale’s Christian beliefs.

“All these different drums came from these different parts of the world and some of them are similar in how they’re made but the cultures made them completely independently of each other. And yet there’s this ingrained human need for human expression beyond just our voices, whether it’s drums or stringed instruments or something else,” he said.

Clay, ceramics, pottery, sculpture — that’s more Gale’s bailiwick in the arts. He grew up in Illinois, playing trombone in band as a kid and singing in choir through college. He enjoyed music growing up, but wouldn’t consider himself a serious musician and hadn’t ever become familiar with stringed instruments.

But he is familiar with church bands, and the power music can have to unite worshippers. In Colorado, where he and his wife and kids lived before moving to Soldotna in 2010, Gale worked with a multidenominational worldwide mission organization, and now is active at Mo Adim Messianic Fellowship of Kenai. It was participation in worship music that kick-started his interest in the instruments used to create music. He was at a Christian music festival years ago and was enthralled by the hand drumming going on.

“You get in with these different drum circles, and there’s Native American drums, African, Irish, Middle Eastern, all playing together and they sound great together,” he said.

“I was like, ‘These hand drums are awesome. I need to get one of those.’ But they were way too expensive to buy. So I thought, ‘I wonder if I could make one out of clay,’ since I already have clay anyway,” he said.

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Art Seen: Colorful challenge — Painters push the bounds of their medium in watercolor show

Best in Show — "Mother and Child" by James Adcox

Best in Show — “Mother and Child” by James Adcox

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Convey exhaustion, but with energy. Give the impression of a captured moment in time representing a state of seeming interminability. Re-create a posed tableau with the real-life weight of a candid scene.

James Adcox certainly undertook a challenge in trying to achieve all this in his painting, “Mother and Child,” on display through November as part of the Kenai Watercolor Group show at the Kenai Fine Arts Center.

But a fitting challenge for this style of painting, given watercolor’s dichotomous qualities.

It’s a raw, quick medium, in that paint can’t be globbed on, scraped off, covered over, worked and reworked like oils can. Yet it can be exacting and laborious for that same reason. Since a paint stroke can’t be changed or undone, every one must be thought out. There are rules to follow. Key among them is to plan out and save unpainted areas of canvass, since there is no white paint in watercolor, only the absence of it. Also, start with certain shades and layer other colors overtop, but not too many or the result will be irrevocably muddy. It’s the painting equivalent of “measure twice, cut once” in construction.

“It’s maybe a medium that is more technically difficult, I’m learning. There’s a lot more rules to watercolor as opposed to oils,” Adcox said, remembering something an art teacher once told his students. “He described oil painting as like making love, and watercolor as downhill skiing. One you can do, the other one you have to learn how to do. It’s not easy, it’s technical.”

To add to the challenge, and the conundrum, Adcox is still fairly new to the challenging medium of watercolor, yet took it up because of its ease.

“Being a dad, with two kiddos, I think have more limited time. Oil painting takes time, and watercolor is a much faster medium for me. To complete a painting, I can usually do that much sooner in watercolor. I think it probably deals with dry time with oils, and it’s layer upon layer, and I revisit the same painting and rework the finish. And with watercolor, I don’t. Watercolor, to me, it seems the less you put on, the fresher the look of the painting,” he said.

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Nature of the artwork — Art imitates nature in sculptor’s processes

"Droplet," resin and aluminum, part of a "Waterline" exhibit by Fairbanks artist Wendy Croskrey on display at Kenai Peninsula College.

“Droplet,” resin and aluminum, part of a “Waterline” exhibit by Fairbanks artist Wendy Croskrey on display at Kenai Peninsula College.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Branches snuggled in hoar frost’s furry coat, a delicate lacey filigree of ice on a windshield, the continuum of concentric circles wrinkling water’s silken surface — every trip outside is an opportunity to witness Alaska’s natural splendor.

“You don’t even have to be hiking and you are in the wilderness, you’re driving down the road and there’s beautiful mountain scenery. Last year I came out one day and I had a great frost pattern on my windshield. I tried to get a photograph of it but I was in a hurry and I thought, ‘Oh, well, it’ll happen tomorrow.’ But it didn’t happen the same way the rest of the year, so I think when you see things like that you have to take a record of it in some way,” said Wendy Croskrey, a sculptor in Fairbanks and associate art department professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

When awed by such examples of natural beauty, often the inclination is to capture it. Photographs help, but don’t quite represent the experience in all its three-dimensional textural lavishness. That’s the gift and curse of Alaska’s scenery — there’s always something to see, but the view’s always changing.

Unless you’re Croskrey, that is. Though she hasn’t managed to capture the beauty of the natural world in a bottle, she has managed to come close in representing it in her work, by emulating processes occurring in nature. Examples of the results can be seen in her exhibition “Waterline,” on display at the Gary L. Freeburg Gallery and Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus through Nov. 8.

The pieces demonstrate Croskrey’s fascination with the natural world, both in process and finished product. Or, more specifically, in the look of the finished pieces through the processes she uses.

“I think that you can’t really, truly make something that’s exactly an imitation of nature, there’s just no way to really do that. So I let the processes sort of create these effects, which is something that I can’t do by taking a carving tool to it or sculpting it in clay. I’m using certain materials that aren’t from nature but they do imitate processes in nature,” Croskrey said.

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