Art Beat: A lot happening at International Gallery of Contemporary Art

Mike Dunham

Susan Murrell's "painting-centric installation" at the International Gallery of Contemporary Art may be the most intriguing exhibit up at the moment. The Oregon artist's statement said she was "using nature-based spontaneous marks and the clean black lines of quantitative illustration (to explore) the tension between a viscerally dynamic landscape and a culture of containment."

I don't know about that, but the colorful squares on the wall triggered thoughts of cubism in my mind the moment I saw them. On closer examination it turned out that they were plastic bags containing colored water. They made an impression both pleasing and curious. I'm not sure how long the colors would stay sharp before the water clouded or something, but probably longer than the sandscapes on the floor underneath them, which mainly occupied my attention as something to avoid stepping in.

Also at the International, Lacie Stiewing's repetitive salute to Dall sheep, "Up Sheep Creek" and Peter Graziano's rather facile portraits of women, "Matriarchate." More impressive was an assortment of drawings and assemblages by Wanda Seamster titled "Last Works Before Leaving Alaska." Seamster says she plans to leave the state soon.

Homer stalwart Karla Moss Freeman has a display of abstract landscapes in Alaska Pacific University's Carr Gottstein Building. Those evoking clouds and wet suggest Southcentral Alaska to me. Other earth-tone canvasses seem inspired by the American Southwest and Mexico, where she now spends much of her time. APU's curator, Jannah Sexton Atkins, tells me that Freeman is the middle link in a mother-daughter chain who have exhibited work at the university. Her mother, Betty Kaplan, had a show there in September, 2004. And her daughter, Asia Freeman, had an exhibit in January, 1998.

British painter Brigid Marlin has sparkling, complex and fantasy-filled egg tempera pieces in APU's Grant Hall.

Returning downtown, "Aggravated Organizms," originally seen at Out North, is now on display at the Alaska Native Foundation Gallery. Carver Drew Michael has made large masks painted by Elizabeth Ellis, each representing one of Alaska's more prevalent diseases or health issues, both physical and mental. Signs with the masks explain the problems in some detail.

At 2 Friends Gallery on Benson, they have the largest painting by Jean Shadrach I have ever seen depicting musk ox. But more artists seem enamoured by cats. I counted several examples of cat art, including items by Dale DeArmond and Barbara Lavallee.

Margret Hugi-Lewis' studio on Northern Lights was jammed with First Friday folk for a tribute to motorcycles, with work by Duke Russell and Don Mohr among others. I found myself most charmed by a 1947 Whizzer on the second floor. This was actually a gas motor kit that one attached to one's bicycle. The pragmatic mechanism -- which may have been problematic in real life traffic -- is as ingenious as anything I've seen in art shows lately.

Anchorage Ballet is at Center for Performing Arts

Anchorage Ballet has announced that it is now a resident company at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts. The "resident" designation means that a company can have a representative on the center's board of directors, among other things.

The company has three productions planned for the upcoming season. "Christmas 2013/The Nutcracker" will receive three performances in Sydney Laurence Theatre, Dec. 20-21; a triple bill of excerpts from "Cats," the comic tango ballet "Coffee Tonight" and "Chopiniana" (music by Chopin) will also have three performances, April 4-5, 2014, in the Discovery Theatre; and a single performance of the company's "Spring Celebration" will take place on May 9, also in the Discovery.

In addition, Anchorage Ballet will hold it's "Arts Night" fundraiser at the Snow Goose Theatre on Oct. 26. Tickets are available at

The Bard in Haines?

Allan Vogel and Janice Tipton, wind players with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, took part in a fundraising concert at the Chilkat Center for the Arts in Haines on Saturday. With violinist Steve Tada and pianist Nancy Nash, they presented a program that included Brahms, Telemann and Mozart. The center, a former cannery, has the magic of excellent acoustics -- not just good, but like champagne for the ears. In discussing the recital with a contact in Haines I remarked that it might also be a great venue for Shakespeare, particularly if done in a Globe Theatre style. "Great idea," said my source. "If any (Shakespearian performers) ever want to do Haines, we don't have much funding, but we can house, promote and take them fishing."

Thespians with a piscatorial bent are invited to inquire via

Final cemetery tour draws crowd despite the weather

Despite persistent rain last Sunday, some 150 people showed up at Anchorage Memorial Cemetery for the last "Stories in the Cemetery" event of the summer. Actors took the part of people buried there and, next to the graves, recounted their life stories. It was the third year that the event has taken place by my count, becoming so successful that it was expanded to three tours. There should be no problem with finding fresh bodies for future years' stories. Organizers tell me they've barely scratched the surface, so to speak.

Alaska books are getting read ...

Tom Kizzia's history of the Pilgrim Family "Pilgrim's Wild erness" is at No. 6 on the Pacific Northwest Independent Booksellers nonfiction hard cover list. Philip Caputo's "The Longest Road," which recounts the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer's road trip from Key West to Prudhoe Bay, is No. 11. Eowyn Ivey's novel "The Snow Child" is at No. 14 on the paperback fiction list. The Pacific Northwest compilers say that none of the three are on national independent best-seller lists, but obviously they've found an audience in our neck of the woods. The reissue of Heather Lende's "If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name" remains on the New York Times nonfiction list for combined electronic and print copies.

... and reviewed

Don Rearden's novel "The Raven's Gift" got it's first major U.S. review this week, a positive nod from Washington Post critic Michael Dirda. Dirda, a Pulitzer Prize-winner spoke at UAA, where Rearden teaches, in 2011. Alaskans can read the piece online here.

Scholarship recital is scheduled for Tuesday

Jari Piper, the 22-year-old winner of the Anchorage Festival of Music's 2013 Young Alaskan Artist Award will present a recital at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, 3900 Wisconsin St.

Piper, son of the Anchorage Symphony's principal oboist and student of the late Arthur Braendal, is working on his master's degree at McGill University in Montreal and has spent the summer traveling around the country giving performances. Admission is by a suggested donation of $25, $10 for students, which goes to support the festival's scholarship program benefitting the next generation of Alaska musicians. Check his website,

Plural for 'snowgo'

Thanks to the readers who chimed in with their opinion on the proper spelling for the plural of "snowgo," a word often heard spoken in Alaska but not commonly written in the rest of the country. The consensus tilts toward "snowgos." One particularly astute reader provided documentary support citing "The Elements of Grammar" by Margaret Shertzer and published by Macmillan in 1986 as a companion to the classic "The Elements of Style" by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White.

"Under 'Formation of Noun Plurals,' she says: 'Most common nouns ending in "o" preceded by a consonant form their plurals by adding "es" to the singular. BUT: cantos, pianos, solos, sopranos, tobaccos ..." And, we assert, "snowgos."

Reach Mike Dunham at or 257-4332.