Art Beat: Anchorage art duo's next meltdown project a hit on Kickstarter

Mike Dunham
Vic Fischer, right, and Don Mitchell chat after the Alaska Supreme Court heard arguments on the results of the U. S. Senate race on December 17, 2010 at the Boney Courthouse downtown. Fischer is among the last living signers of the Alaska State Constitution.
Erik Hill

The artistic team of Steph Kesey and Erin Pollock are back at it with a project that's emerged from their previous work in Alaska, notably the "367 lbs of wax" event, which featured faces cast in wax, painted, then melted. The new multimedia art exhibition will take place in Seattle and is titled, "Melting Bodies." The pair is seeking support with a Kickstarter campaign at Earlier this month they launched their appeal to raise $31,000 in funds and were selected as the top staff pick for artist projects, putting them on the Kickstarter home page. Within one week they had made half their goal and, earlier this week, the total exceeded $21,000.

The project will only be funded if the full amount is pledged by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 7. Check out the video and premiums for donors (which include a face casting party) at the website.

The team also created the permanent public art project featuring back-lit faces of community members that can be seen at the corner of Mountain View and Commercial Drives.


Fischer signings coming up

Vic Fischer's memoir, "To Russia with Love: An Alaskan's Journey," has just been released by the University of Alaska Press under the Snowy Owl imprint. With assistance from Charles Wohlforth, the book recounts (among other things) Fischer's life in pre-World War II Germany and the Soviet Union -- the period that preceded his tenure as a member of the Alaska State Constitutional Convention and Legislature. A book signing will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday in room 307 of the Consortium Library on the campus of the University of Alaska Anchorage and a "party," with a reading, question-and-answer session and refreshments will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 3, at Cyrano's, 413 D St.


'Quyana' wins in New York

Alaska-born choreographer Emily Johnson received a "Bessie" award -- formally the New York Dance and Performance Awards -- at the Apollo Theater on Oct. 15. Johnson was noted for her performance piece, "The Thank-You Bar," which premiered at Out North in Anchorage in 2009. The work takes its name from the Que-Ana Bar in Clam Gulch, which her family owns, "Que-Ana" being a play on the Yup'ik word for "thank you," "quyana."

The judges awarded her the Outstanding Production prize, "For gently and deftly coaxing an audience into a community, holding them spellbound with stories spoken and unspoken; reminding us that we all come from a place unknowable, yet known."

The citation said Johnson's work "considers the experience of sensing and seeing performance. Her dances often function as installations, engaging audiences within and through a space and environment -- sights, sounds, smells -- interacting with a place's architecture, history, and role in community. She works to blur distinctions between performance and daily life and to create work that reveals and respects multiple perspectives."

That's what New Yorkers say. Here at home I'm still trying to digest the story of her cousin in St. Mary's who tried to eat a live blackfish, one of the memorable elements in the original production.

Johnson now bases out of Minnesota. "The Thank-You Bar" has been touring around the country.


Film festival reaches out.

Tony Sheppard, with the Anchorage International Film Festival, is asking those who love the movies showcased at the annual event to sign up as members to support it. This year's fest will take place Nov. 30 to Dec. 12. You can find more information, including how to join and the list of films scheduled to be seen at


Poetic pondering

Perseverance Theatre's presentation of "Of Mice and Men," the subject of the main story in today's Arts and Life section, appears to be the first time the play has been done in Anchorage since before statehood. Catherine Stadem's study, "The History of Theatre in Anchorage, Alaska, 1915-2002," notes a single production, in 1957. The Anchorage Drama Lab version included music written and sung by Ruben Gaines, creator of the "Chilkoot Charlie" character and, later, Alaska poet laureate. One wonders: were those songs written down in musical notation? Where are they now?


Singing to the world

Backbeat, the Anchorage barbershop-style women's quartet that won the Northwest Regional Sweet Adelines competition, will take it to the next level on Wednesday at the International Convention in Denver, Colo. The group is the first Sweet Ads regional champion to represent Alaska since 1985. Alaskans can watch their performance on a live webcast at


Worldwide meltdown

The worldwide premiere of Matthew Burtner's "telematic" opera "Auksalaq" will take place at 1 p.m. on Monday at the University of Alaska Museum of the North -- and several other locations. They include the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., Lu Magnus Gallery in New York, Purdue University in Indianapolis, McGill University in Montreal, the University of Virginia and the Grieg Academy of Music in Bergen, Norway.

Burtner, originally from Alaska, is partnering with Scott Deal, former instructor of percussion at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, for the project. It's described as integrating "artistic expression, scientific information, and social/political commentary into an interactive, multi-dimensional collection of narratives that provide a stirring and sobering commentary on the transformation of the Far North as a result of global climate change."

"Auksalaq" is the Inupiat word for "melting ice."

Admission will be free and a discussion will follow. Additional information -- including, we suspect, a way to catch the event online -- is available at and


Kuo gets Oregon post

Conductor Kelly Kuo, who this past season directed productions of "The Sound of Music" to Verdi's "Macbeth" for Anchorage Opera, was selected this summer as the new artistic director of the Oregon Mozart Players, based in Eugene. In an interview with the Register-Guard, he noted that with little time to arrange guest artists for the upcoming season -- which started last month -- he'd probably do double duty as both conductor and keyboard soloist in upcoming programs. We're sure Kelly will have no trouble with that. He's a former student of pianist Byron Janis and an impressively intelligent musician in his own right.

It may be a while before Anchorage gets him again. The maestro will split his time between Eugene and the Butler Opera Center at the University of Texas in Austin, where he is the new music director. The Oregon native will continue to maintain his home in Cincinnati, where his kids are in school and his wife has her own career. The thought of the accumulating frequent flier miles boggles our mind.


Five horns, no waiting

The Glacier Brass Quintet will perform at 4 p.m. today at Anchorage Lutheran Church, 1420 N St. Performers include trumpeters John Cleveland and Sam Cliff, horn player Darrel Kincade, trombonist Paul Fredericksen and tuba guy Jeff Manley. The program will include pieces by Dukas, Bach and Sousa. Admission is free, but donations are accepted to keep these community concerts going.



Reach Mike Dunham at or 257-4332.