How did you spend 2014? Artist Scott Clendaniel spent the year painting a different beer portrait every day. The results of his industry and, um, research will be part of the First Friday art opening on Jan. 2 in the Loft of the Midnight Sun Brewing Company, 8111 Dimond Hook Road. Not surprisingly, he's displayed his beer art there before.
Clendaniel has busily acquired craft beers from far and near; in addition to painting a bottle a day, he also set the goal of including at least one beer from each of the 50 states in his portfolio -- oh, and Washington, D.C. He painted in Anchorage, New England, Hawaii and McCarthy and even did some "life" paintings at a few breweries.
He proudly asserts that he drinks every beer he paints. His critiques and portraits are posted at his website, realartisbetter.wordpress.com, where fans have been able to follow his progress day by day all year. The art is also sold online at realartisbetter.etsy.com.
The resulting oil portraits are 8 inches by 10 inches and include a background that relates to the beer in some way, he says. Not all of the year's toil will be on display at Midnight Sun, but a lot will. The exhibit will overlap with Alaska Beer Week, Jan. 9-18, but will remain on display through Feb. 5. The opening reception will take place from 5 to 8 p.m.
Birds with attitude
It isn't an opening reception, but Mark Hoover's bird photos at the Alaska Native Arts Foundation gallery, 500 W. Sixth Ave., will begin their second month on display on First Friday. Hoover, son of the late sculptor John Hoover, has beautifully focused digital pictures of ravens, eagles and other winged friends, so detailed that you can make out the different kinds of feathers on their faces.
But what makes this show worth a second look is the captions Hoover has put with the photos. One with a golden eagle reads: "I'm not a bald eagle? Then what am I doing here in Cordova?"
OK, so animals with beaks really don't have much in the way of facial gestures; who knows what they're really thinking? But for a human, the tendency to read the caption, then look at the photo and see a perplexed expression is irresistible.
A clutch of open-beaked ravens is accompanied by an off-color joke and the caption "Dirty Birds." The laughter is about as audible as visual art can produce.
Other captions are reflective, political or even literary. A particularly striking straight-on portrait of a raven is accompanied by "Edgar Allen who? Never heard of the gentleman. And you can quoth me on that."
Hoover says the photos and captions are meant to show the connection between humans and animals with an eye toward the mythological themes that his father so often explored.
The gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Jan. 2 and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on Jan. 3, then closed through Jan. 8 before resuming its regular winter schedule.
Other First Friday openings of note
The biggest First Friday reception will probably be at the International Gallery of Contemporary Art, 427 D St. It's the opening of its Annual Member Artist Exhibition, which has been one of the more vibrant group shows in years past. The members will take up all the wall space except for the Guest Room, where Nathan Perry will have a show of work on varied themes titled "Refined Edge."
At Alaska Pacific University's Leah J. Peterson Gallery in the Carr Gottstein Building (next door to J. Jason Lazarus' "Stories Fading Fast" photos), former ADN photo chief Richard Murphy will be opening "A Narrow Road to the Interior Winter." Murphy relocated to Fairbanks for a year. While there, he took advantage of the chance to shoot winter landscapes in the Upper Tanana River Basin.
The photos on display are largely, though not exclusively, in black and white. Many play with the contrast of a positive and negative image of the same subject. "I miss the beauty of the negatives," Murphy said, referring to the old darkroom development technique that predated digital photography. Nonetheless, the computerized digital technology allows him to create effects like framing a positive inside a negative that he said would be nearly impossible it he tried to do it with film.
Another show opening by a former member of the Anchorage Daily News staff is cartoonist Peter Dunlap-Shohl's show at Snow City Cafe, Fourth Ave. and L St. It includes "Posters from Canceled Performances at the Brazen Husky," a series of imaginary ads for acts scheduled at a fictitious Spenard bar, acts that -- alas -- were canceled for one reason or another. Country music "legend" Charlie Cactus decided he was too good to play Spenard. Madam Pavlova's Canine Acrobats pulled out after the dogs ran away.
"Together the nine posters tell a story of a struggling tavern, those who run it, and the performers that (almost) pass across its stage," writes Dunlap-Shohl, who grew up in Anchorage in the wild pipeline and pre-pipeline era.
The posters are produced via computer technologies: iPad, Sketchbook Pro, Photoshop. The artist says he resisted going to digital formats because he didn't like the "chilly perfection" of many pieces he saw. He made it a "mission" to create digital art that revealed both the cyber and human aspects. "Along the way I discovered the liberating aspects of the computer, the ability to take risks, experiment with color and to work with type and other design elements to create new ways to tell stories."
The show, which includes digital work in addition to the "Brazen Husky" series, will be on display at Snow City Cafe, on the corner of Fourth Avenue and L Street.
Most First Friday receptions wind up by 8 p.m., but that's right when the Late Salon will start up at Anchorage Community Works, 349 E. Ship Creek Ave. The event will feature artists Lori Teich and Jimmy Riordan. Riordan spent five years translating a 100-year-old French novel, "Le Roman du Lievre," hand-printing the book with a letterpress and transmuting it into a graphic novel, still in progress. He'll perform a reading from the work that will include sorting and melting some of the lead type used to print the book. Beer, wine and food will be available from the Spenard Roadhouse. Michael Howard will provide the music. This is a 21-and-over event.
If I live long enough, I may well be the last American who remembers sitting in an auditorium, watching a single person recite a long, rhyming, narrative poem and hearing the entire room break into sighs or guffaws at once, as if they were watching a movie. In a way that modern slams can only approximate, poetry was once a concert performance art form. We would gather and listen in something like a state of enchantment as the well-tongued rolled out the lines of Macaulay, Longfellow, Whittier, Holmes and Kipling.
In Alaska, needless to say, no poet was more popularly declaimed at these revels than Robert Service -- not just his well-known sagas of Dan McGrew and Sam McGee, but Blasphemous Bill, Fighting Mac, Bessie's Boil and Lenin's Tomb.
Shortly after I moved to Anchorage, I introduced my new friends to an old friend visiting from Homer and prevailed upon him to recite "The Ballad of the Ice Worm Cocktail," one of the gems in his repertoire. They listened politely but coolly. I couldn't fathom why they weren't attuned to the art, but the answer became clear soon enough. Television. They had grown up with it in Anchorage, but it hadn't yet gotten to Kachemak Bay.
I can't quite put my finger on it, but something about television is at enmity with poetry and vice versa. The case for poetry wasn't helped by some really bad recitals that gave the art the reputation of a Looney Tunes cartoon. At any rate, there was this big war and TV won, at least for a while.
But some of us remain unreconstructed, inclined to open a book on quiet evenings and become the voice of men and women who wrote, perhaps centuries ago, in ways that stirred listeners to laughter, anger and tears.
For those who wonder what I'm talking about, there'll be the opportunity to get a taste of it at the next meeting of the Alaskan Prospectors Society. Dick Freisinger, storyteller and elocutionist, will present "The Spell of the Yukon," billed as a lively Robert Service northland epic sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. The public is always welcome to these meetings, as are donations for rent. There will be snacks. The time is 7:45 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 6. The place is the United Methodist Church at 725 W. Ninth Ave.
But to get the effect, turn off the television and Internet 24 hours before you go.
India in Anchorage
Colin Tyler Bogucki will be the guest presenter at the next ASMP/Alaska First Tuesday Slide/Lecture Series at the Anchorage Museum. Bogucki is currently the artist in residence at the Eagle River Nature Center, but has spent much time doing professional media photography in South Asia. His images include photos of the wildlife, people and culture of India. It takes place at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 6 and admission is free. Enter by the doors on Seventh Avenue.