By Jenny Neyman
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.
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