The big show on Feb. 7, and the one with the biggest crowd, was the Anchorage Museum’s “Gyre: The Plastic Ocean” show, an art and science exhibit about the impact of discarded plastic on marine ecosystems. I was inspired and immediately went to the Dollar Store to purchase an array of brightly colored plastic items that I then tossed into Cook Inlet so that they can be found by artists and turned into beautiful museum pieces.
Just joking. There’s a lot of eye-catching artwork in the show, along with videos and data, and say what you will about plastic, it holds its color well. But this is the kind of event that takes time to appreciate and squeezing it in to the other First Friday openings with the crowds and tight time frame isn’t really optimal. Happily, it will be on display for months. It strikes me as an excellent show to bring children to, especially with the upcoming spring school break. And please, dispose of your plastic products properly.
Repurposed material is also at the core of Ron Naanes’s show at Alaska Pacific University, mainly weathered boards. The most striking piece is a window frame encasing a cross made from scrap metal.
The APU shows are famous for their First Friday snack trays, but this First Friday was something special that included giant coconut shrimp. But something about the crowd didn’t seem to square with an art opening. Turns out that APU Alumni had a gathering scheduled in the Peterson Gallery at the same time as the First Friday event. Oops.
Rosemary Redmond’s exhibit in the adjacent Grant Hall space was perhaps more interesting. “On the Kvichak” represented a departure for the artist, best known for large abstract landscape paintings. These are smaller mixed media works that she called “sculptural paintings.” They are united by a grid pattern repeated from piece to piece in different ways. The grids represent fish nets, community layout, radio waves, and each piece reflects some aspect of Redmond’s girlhood in the fishing towns of the Kvichak River in Bristol Bay.
The most impressive solo show I found is “Proximity” by Margo Klass of Fairbanks, on the top floor of the Anchorage Museum. Klass’s work consists of book and box forms using found items and worked with exquisite detail. The tiny hinges, latches and doorstops of the boxes show jeweler-like detail applied to natural materials.
Three of the pieces stick with me. “Temple II” is a box topped with a magnifying lens; within the box is a smooth creek stone. My impression is that, if exposed to a sunlight situation, the lens will focus the beam on the stone and the observer can watch it move over the course of a day. Another box, “Reading Room,” featured a miniature ladder leading to a miniature chair. The inside of the doors of the box included several of Klass’s book forms, which could be removed and opened. Like the other boxes in the show, some of which were rather complex with multiple hinges, it was accompanied by a little video slide show that let you see what it looks like open and closed and in between.
The third piece was “Compline,” the last in her “Book of Days” series displayed in its own space. Neither book nor box, it was simply pretty and evocative, using dark colors and branches, which pleased me more than the items in the series that used bolts or socks or other man-made relics.
There was a big crowd on hand for the opening of "Expressions of Empowerment: A retrospective of Elizabeth Peratrovich" at the Alaska Native Arts Foundation Gallery, 500 W. 6th Ave. Several Alaska Native women artists pay homage to the civil rights leader in their own way. Work on display includes mask forms by Susie Bevins and Kathleen Carlo and a marvelously complex basket by Audrey Armstrong. Some pieces are purely traditional, like Lena Ferguson’s magnificent Cup’ik dance stick with rows of puffins, all clutching fish in their beaks. Others are strongly contemporary, like “Recycled Inupiaq Woman,” a collage by Holly Nordlum. Some are political, like Apayo Moore’s depiction of Peratrovich ala Rosie the Riveter. Special attractions include a handkerchief embroidered by Elizabeth herself and the dress worn by Diane Benson in the film “For the Rights of All: Ending Jim Crow in Alaska” in which she played the role of Elizabeth. Benson has also contributed a poem about Peratrovich, a framed copy of which is on the wall. The poem is included in her book "Spruce Tips in the Fog," which is also for sale at the shop.