Art Beat: Tribute to Anchorage artist planned

Mike Dunham
Artist: Armond Kirschbaum Other artists: Doris Kirschbaum Title: Sarah" Salmon
Army Kirschbaum, right, is shown with his old friend Dr. Robert Wilkins at a tribute to Wilkins from the Anchorage arts community held at Cafe Del Mundo on Sept. 25, 2011.

A "Celebration of Life" for Armond "Army" Kirschbaum will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the Blue-Hollomon Gallery, 3555 Arctic Blvd. We previously noted his passing, at age 89, on Dec. 4, 2012, but this seems a good time to revisit some of his accomplishments, with information supplied by his family and friends.

Born in San Francisco March 25, 1923, he spent summers in Nome with his mother and stepfather who ran a trading post. He enlisted in the Navy after the attack on Pearl Harbor and served as a Seabee. After the war, he attended the San Francisco Art Institute on the GI bill, studying what was then called commercial art and is now known as graphic design.

He came to Anchorage in 1948, according to a Daily News interview in 1981. He told the reporter that he found five little theater groups and a symphony orchestra, but "there was nothing, nothing going on" in the visual arts.

He opened an advertising business with a strong commercial art component and sold art supplies to people who would become the core of the town's visual art community, like William Kimura and Alex Combs, well before they were actually making money from their art. He expanded his business to include a gallery and showed the work of Rie Munoz, Keith Appel, Bill Sabo and Pat Austin. He was instrumental in forming the Alaska Artists Guild.

He served on the Anchorage Historical and Fine Arts Museum Commission, on the boards of the Alaska Watercolor Society and was a founding member of the Anchorage Lions Club.

As an artist, Kirschbaum produced paintings and murals, including some of the prominent pieces at the Hotel Captain Cook. When the city of Anchorage merged with the Greater Anchorage Area Borough, he created the seal for the new municipality.

An avid music lover, he played trombone in the Anchorage Symphony and local jazz bands, including the Continentals and Young at Heart.

He is survived by his wife of 20 years, Doris Kirschbaum, and by three sons, Timothy, Steven and Daniel, and one daughter, Andrea Lee Saunders, by his first wife Becky (deceased).

More on Mattox

I got a lot of feedback on last week's article on "The old man of Homer," including some photocopies of records dug up by genealogical sleuths that showed his name spelled different ways, his birth date given in various years and his birthplace listed as everywhere from Nebraska to "Diamede Island."

Some said they had known him and the picture included with the article was not of him; others who knew him said it certainly was.

It didn't take long for folks with connections to the old homesteading community at the head of Kachemak Bay to get word to his grandson, Ron Wieber, and we connected by phone early last week. Wieber told me that the "old man's" name was properly spelled Alvia Mattox and that he was best known as "Matt." He was born in 1879 in Buffalo, Wyo., and was working at the Turkey Track Cattle Company there at the turn of the century.

It was a wild and woolly place, Wieber said. "He told me how he encountered a sheep herder one time and they shot it out. He wound up with a bullet in his back that he carried to his grave."

He came to Alaska to work in the gold fields in Nome, Wieber said, and accumulated enough of a stake to fund his ranching efforts in the Homer area. That would not have been during the first Nome gold rush, however, since the 1910 census shows him still living in Wyoming and the 1930 census has him living in Unalaska -- herding sheep. Wieber thought Mattox's Nome years were in the '30s.

According to an "End of the Trail" listing in the Alaska Sportsman magazine, he died in Anchorage in 1969. Several descendents were noted.

Insofar as my own memory can be trusted, I believe I was told Mattox was dead by Homer old timers in the early 1960s -- and that he had been buried in a well because the ground was frozen at the time of his demise.

Happily for Homer water drinkers, Wieber tells me that he is in fact buried in the Pioneer Cemetery, across from the road named after him and, as it turns out, just downhill of the house that his grandson now occupies.

Wieber was among those who confirmed that the photograph is indeed of Mattox. "I absolutely recognized him," he said. "I recognized him and the buckboard. He was a gee-hawin', whoa, wagon-teaming kind of guy."

Mattox was talked into buying an Allis Chalmers tractor once, Wieber said, but gave up on trying to use the machine after he was almost killed on it.

Discount on new musical

More family history, from playwright Ann Reddig, will unfold in the form of a musical that premieres this coming weekend. "Project Petoskey" tells the story of her parents, who were married 64 years.

Her father had Alzheimer's disease and, said the playwright, "I spent a good amount of the previous four years in Michigan helping them with their end plan." She kept friends and family up to date via Web postings, now turned into this piece of theater.

Both parents died on Jan. 3, 2012.

The cast of the musical features the talent of Susan Reilly, Van Horn Eli III, Vivian Kinnaird, John Fraser, Richard Benavides, Denice Jewell, Erick Roberts and Kelly Moss. David Haynes directs.

Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Sydney Laurence Theatre. Tickets, $20, are available at

But wait, there's more! You can get a two-for-one voucher for Friday's show by going to The offer lasts through Monday.

From the blog

Observations from some of the First Friday art openings are posted at I was particularly interested in the show of work by Nome area artists curated by Karen Olanna in APU's Grant Hall. Olanna, who exhibits in the show, is the best known name. Most of the rest are unfamiliar 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. It 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 Anchorage venues.

Reach Mike Dunham at or 257-4332.