Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Art Seen: Harvesting artists’ potential

Our artistic community appears to be on the verge of truly recognizing its greatness. We probably have as many artists per capita as the well-known artist haven, Homer, and it seems our central Kenai Peninsula area is coming into its own in that regard.

In testament to that trend, the quality of the ninth annual Harvest Art Auction Exhibit has once again exceeded prior years. Works of particular note span the mediums of watercolor, stone lithography, ceramics, digital photography, fiber art, fused glass and egg tempera.

Donna Schwanke has rendered the oldest building on the peninsula in warm, robust, watercolor hues in “Watchman’s House/Kasilof.” She has been painting with watercolor for six years and is a “perpetual student” at Kenai Peninsula College, mostly because she especially enjoys learning from Celia Anderson, she said.

Clayton Hillhouse has utilized the same tactile and historically rich subject in a digital photograph titled “Log House,” which effectively zooms in on the texture of the logs. His more successful piece is another digital photo titled “Volution.” In this also very rich and warm piece he has layered shots of trees and shells to form a thoroughly inviting and intriguing image. He and his wife, Juanita, are quite prolific, and have been accepted into numerous juried exhibitions through the years. Juanita’s work of note is a sweet little ditty called “Abstract Tree.” It is a fiber piece and is reminiscent of the often innocent-feeling, yet archetypically charged, Paul Klee or early Kandinsky.

Another quite prolific artist is longtime resident Jim Evenson, an absolute hero of mine who never stops exploring his relationship to his art. He and his family homesteaded on the peninsula when Alaska was still a territory, and throughout his other careers (teacher, commercial fisherman) he has created art of lasting value and historical note. He is proficient in painting and drawing and has a stone lithograph studio at his North Kenai homestead. His contribution to the Harvest auction is a vibrant stone lithograph (which are technically considered originals, as each print pulled from the stone is not the same as the one prior or the one after). It is titled “Shore” and is executed with the confident strokes and playful rendering of an artist comfortable with a medium and subject he knows well.

Another prolific artist (See what I mean? It could be a mantra in this area!) is an entirely self-taught newcomer to our scene, Andy Hehnlin (pronounced hen-line). He raised his family in Girdwood, lived in the Southeast for a spell and then near Big Lake, but has recently settled in North Kenai. His medium is egg tempera, a classical medium which he also adds mined gold and pearl to, for an iridescent effect. Technically, egg tempera is adding dry pigment to egg yolks, and he paints on Masonite board, a substrate well known for its perfectly smooth face.

He’s invented his own airbrush in order to accommodate his unique process, and he rarely uses a brush, but creates quite naturalistic renderings of familiar landscapes. His work sells well at Art Works in Soldotna, as well as in galleries in Homer and Anchorage, and his generous donation to the art guild called “Chilkat River/Splash of Gold” is likely to garner much interest at the auction this month. His work won first place in the recent juried exhibit at the Kenai Fine Arts Center.

Joy Falls teaches ceramics at KPC and has donated a number of pieces, including a fascinating little ceramic vessel she calls “Nanban,” which has an extreme texture that makes it feel almost like an artifact. Kathryn Zerbe has once again donated a wonderful fused glass plate, which is hand-cut and kiln-fused and formed. It goes through a tempering process called “annealing.” The piece she entered is called “Gray and Green Urchin” and is sure to delight the future highest bidder.

The auction occurs at 6 p.m. Sept. 27, with auctioneer Peter Micciche starting off at around 7 p.m. Drinks, food and entertainment are included. Tickets are $20. More information can be obtained by calling 283-7040.

Zirrus VanDevere is a local mixed-media artist and owns Art Works gallery in Soldotna. She has bachelor’s degrees in fine arts and education.

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