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Culture

Artists show two sides in First Friday openings

  • Author: Mike Dunham
  • Updated: May 31, 2016
  • Published November 11, 2015

A good cook can make more than one kind of soup. And a good artist, it seems, can shine in more than one kind of medium. So we saw in the latest round of First Friday art openings on Nov. 6.

Longtime UAA instructor Garry Kaulitz has often surprised us with paintings that take directions we were not expecting, from coolly meditative mood pieces to strong social commentary. The unifying factor has been that they were all well executed. So it is with his solo show at Alaska Pacific University's Conoco Phillips Gallery (Grant Hall), titled "Bread and Circuses." The artist said the name was suggested by the fact that the collagraph prints were distractions from his "worldly concerns." None were pre-planned, he said, "but allowed to develop in an atmosphere of discovery rather than one of expectation." You might see something representational in some of them; is that a horse in "Fur and Feather"? But they are mainly strong, vibrant abstracts.

At the same time as the Kaulitz "romps of fantasy" are on display at APU, he has a fine line drawing of a roof in the "100x100" group at the International Gallery of Contemporary Art. This fundraiser offers 100 pieces of art for sale at prices of $100 or less. Several of the offerings are by well-known names, but others were new to me. Allison Estergard's painting "Conform," with several identical and macabre red silhouettes, was particularly striking, as was Jody Jenkins' "Adrift," an acrylic image of a sailboat among mountains. I had to smile at Drea Moore's "The Chauffeur," a ceramic sculpture of a pig in uniform with a peculiarly fed-up expression. There were very nice large ceramic pieces, including one by Jannah Atkins, and a small set of aluminum leaf earrings by Les Matz. I can't wait to see them on the Jumbotron.

Also at the IGCA is a solo show by Rosemary Redmond, "Cyberscapes," in which the artist says she is "seeking the synergy of technology and the natural world." Redmond is best known for wild, sprawling abstracts. These, too, are abstracts, but more concise, cohesive and, I would say, appealing than her previous work. But like Kaulitz, she also excels in line drawings, and a collection of her illustrations of old buildings, including some Anchorage homes that have not been around for decades, is on display this month at Fire Island Bakery.

Returning to Alaska Pacific University, the Carr Gottstein Gallery is hosting a two-person show by Seward artists Tom Missel and Sandy Stolle. Missel is represented by some very nice landscape paintings and Stolle by wood carvings that suggest, without representing, natural forms, though sometimes with startling results. One piece of wood strongly suggests a mask, for instance. Asked how the two diverse styles came to be paired in a single exhibit, Stolle said they had originally planned to have separate shows but grew concerned that they wouldn't have enough individually and so teamed up. Whatever the reason, the combination comes off effectively.

The Anchorage Museum is showcasing recent acquisitions in the atrium, including a photographic collection belonging to Dora Keen, who led the first successful ascent of Mount Blackburn, the highest summit in the Wrangell Mountains, in 1912. The fourth-floor gallery is showing "100 Snapshots," an assembly of home photos by Alaskans. But the most impressive exhibit is of work purchased with grants from the Rasmuson Foundation over the past 10 years and taking up four galleries. We'll have more on that fine show in a couple of weeks.

Speaking of the museum, it will be the venue for the kick-off of the Alaska Design Forum's "Future Tents" design challenge. Submissions will be taken through Dec. 11 of ideas for creating contemporary shelter designs that "present solutions to inhabiting our northern wilderness." But the party is Friday, Nov. 13, from 6 p.m. to midnight.

Parkinson's passage

"My Degeneration," a graphic novel -- maybe that should be "graphic creative non-fiction" -- by our former colleague and ADN editorial cartoonist Peter Dunlap-Shohl has been published by Pennsylvania State University Press. Informative, poignant, funny and deeply engrossing, the 96-page full-color book is the most entertaining volume by an Alaskan author to cross my desk in some time. Subtitled "A Journey through Parkinson's," it recounts Dunlap-Shohl's struggles with the progressive, incurable disease over the past several years. The graphic treatment expresses themes and emotions in the direct yet surreal conventions of comics. When the author learns of his diagnosis, for instance, a grand piano crashes down on him. In another episode he interviews the disease presented in human form, neatly dressed in a suit, as if reporting a news story.

The book, which I recommend even to those who don't know anyone with Parkinson's, will have its debut with a signing at Fireside Books in Palmer, 720 S. Alaska St., 4-5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14. It's worth noting that is also the day of the Palmer Art Walk, which usually takes place on the second Saturday of every month.

On the topic of books by ADN alumni, photographer Jim Lavrakas tells us that his collection of pictures shot during the pursuit of news stories over the years, "Snap Decisions," is now in its second printing with updated text, the first edition having sold out. It's available on Amazon, the Anchorage Museum, several local gift shops and at Lavrakas' website, farnorthpress.com.

Who was Aquilla Matthews?

For our recent article about former Anchorage Fire Chief Thomas Bevers, I tried to find the name of his sister who came to Anchorage to claim the body upon his death in 1944. No one seemed to remember and the newspapers of the time were silent. In hopes that his will might have named her, I received copies of his probate files from the state archive. Alas, it listed four sisters, Captola Bevers, Gwindolyn Oliver, Sallie Ann Motley and Grace Davis. There was no indication which one might have made the trip to Alaska. Squinting at microfilm of the Anchorage Times, which published names of visitors and which hotels they were staying at, I did not see any of those names. But it's likely that the hotels did not rent to African-Americans. While Chief Bevers was presumed to be white during his 20-some years in Anchorage (perhaps nobody ever asked), the arrival of his darker sister revealed that he was black.

The papers name Aquilla Matthews of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as his executrix. She stipulates that she is not related to Bevers — "a stranger in blood," to use the legal term. It seems that she had previously lived in Anchorage and came back after his death and did stay at local hotels. She received the bulk of his considerable estate, which included $13,614 in cash, $4,163 in stocks and bonds and nearly $52,000 in Anchorage property. He appears to have owned everything from Cordova to Ingra streets between Ninth and 13th avenues. Some of the plots were valued at $15 at the time of his death.

After bequeathing $1,000 each to eight siblings and one nephew, Bevers gave everything else to Matthews. Someone by that name died in Pennsylvania in the 1970s at the age of nearly 100, according to Social Security records, but other than that I have found out nothing about her. I will presume, however, that she was a cultured individual and that at some level she and Bevers shared a taste for the arts. Bevers' will specifies that in the event Matthews does not want the inheritance, it is to be used to endow a scholarship fund in her name, "to aid talented, worthy music students to obtain their education."

If anyone can recall which sister came to Alaska or knows anything about Matthews, that information would be good to pass along to others with a curiosity about Anchorage history. You can link to Bevers' probate from the online version of this column.

Send your fiddle to jail

The orchestra of Hiland Mountain Correctional Center could use that violin you have gathering dust in the closet. Anchorage Symphony concertmaster Kathryn Hoffer, who teaches and conducts the all-women ensemble, says instruments should be full size and in playable condition and that violins are the ONLY instruments needed at this time. Donations can garner a tax deduction. Call 345-2572 to work out the details. The orchestra, now in its 12th season, will give its next public performance on Dec. 5 and tickets — which absolutely must be obtained in advance — are available at centertix.net.

Jazz benefit raises $9,000

The long-running Jazz Fighting Hunger benefit took its final bow on Nov. 8 and, according to organizer Ray Booker, raised $9,000. "This may increase a bit," Booker said, "as folks will sometimes send in donations to the project afterward." The tally means that Jazz Fighting Hunger has contributed between $135,000-$140,000 to the Food Bank of Alaska over the years. No less important, Booker said, was the program's mission "to raise awareness about the challenge of hunger in Alaska."

Short plays sought

Theatre UAF's Student Drama Association is looking for scripts to be considered for "Famous for Fifteen," at which readings are given of original plays no longer than 15 minutes. Scripts are due by Nov. 22 (and earlier will be appreciated) to be considered for reading on Feb. 27. Information is available at uaf.edu/theatrefilm/sda.

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