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FIRST FRIDAY RAMBLES: Treasures at Two Friends

Art Snob Blog
Bright Rich Summer: by Karen Olanna at Alaska Pacific University.

The inaugural round of 2013 First Friday openings brings several art shows worth a look. Timewise – and not really a show – is the sale underway at Two Friends on Benson, ending Saturday, Jan. 5. Some of the artwork and specialty items are marked down by as much as 60 percent as the Two Friends crew prepares to shut down in advance of a buying tour out of state. That won’t actually happen for another week or so, but the sale ends today.

The walls were relatively bare in advance of getting more “stuff” when the gallery reopens. But what was up there caught my attention: A mask sculpture by Susie Bevens, a woodcut by Dale DeArmond, an oil by Wassily Sommer and a large fish form print that looked familiar yet unknown at the same time. A closer look revealed that it was by a very young Alvin Amason. It beautifully shows his knack for interpreting wildlife, but has none of the 3-D add-ons or text featured on his best-known mature work. “He never did lithographs again,” I was told.

Also at Two Friends, a forest piece by Steve Gordon, who has his own show right now at Artique, Ltd. Downtown.

Two lovely shows are at Alaska Pacific University. “The Art of Fire” consists of multi- media takes on wildfire by several Fairbanks-area artists, photography, fabric, painting, sculpture. Ree Nancarrow narrates the cycle in a quilted triptych, “Spruce Fire,” “Spruce Smoke” and “Spruce Wasteland,” the last being a stark black-and-white piece with a few hopeful sprigs of green. Errinn Kathryn has taken aerial views of fire zones and removed the silhouette of the burn area. That section is remounted and painted in designs suggesting recovery in the aftermath of the blaze. The show was curated by Oklahoma transplant Mary Beth Leigh, whose day job is as a professor of microbiology at UAF and whose avocations include art, music and modern dance. She said a future show will involve Denali National Park.

Karen Olanna curated (and exhibits in) the show of Nome area artists in Grant Hall. Most of the names are unknown to Anchorage viewers, though much of the art is intriguing – like Robert Lewis’ takes on classic forms with an arctic twist. His “Still Life with $12.50 in Tomatoes” shows four of the fruit, looking a bit irregular and stressed.

Since none of Katherine Mallory’s paintings were for sale, I suspected she must be deceased, but they were mighty alluring. “The Artist at Work” shows a marvelous sky scape near Serpentine Hot Springs. Turned out she was at the show, having recently moved to Chugiak with her family, and is considerably younger and aliver than me. She’ll be heading to Larson Bay to teach school this month, but we expect to see more of her work in the Anchorage shows.

“New Skin,” at the Alaska Native Arts Foundation gallery on 6th Ave. includes some new pieces by Sonya Kelliher-Combs using her proprietary polymer synthetic paint skin. But most of the pieces are by students in a workshop she recently held to instruct others in her unique technique – Holly Nordlum, Beckie Etukeok and Shyanne Beatty. Among the “students” was the prolific Ken Lisbourne, who probably ranks as one of Alaska’s “old masters” at this point in time. He told me that staff at the University of Alaska Museum of the North recently showed him paintings he’d forgot he’d done. He also said that one of his reasons for taking the workshop was “to hang out with these young people.”

One of his polymer pieces is a whaling scene. The medium makes his always-bright colors even brighter. The other is unusual, composed almost entirely in white, showing a young man pushing against a strong wind in a blizzard. Lisbourne recalled battling such storms as a kid in Point Hope. “I must have survived,” he said, “because here I am.”


By MIKE DUNHAM
Anchorage Daily News