Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Art Seen: Dena’ina exhibit includes craftsmanship of usable, decorative arts

The “Dena’ina Art and Regalia” show at the Funky Monkey in November was an interesting compilation of works gathered by the Kenaitze Tribe.

You will see photography of interpretive sites by Kim Dolchok, as well as be able to pick up a flyer on “K’Beq” or “Footprints,” the Kenaitze-run interpretive site this side of Cooper Landing. Or you could peruse Maggie Jones’ 2007 anth- ropology class project, a series of stories incor- porating Dena’ina language. She has a fiber piece on exhibit titled “Three Friends” or “Tuq’ina Ida Sukdu,” which appears to be a story of three feathered friends who live in a coastal area.

Jones also displays a number of beaded leather garments, or regalia, at least one of which has earned an award at the Kenai Peninsula State Fair. Dentillia shells are utilized quite a bit in these pieces, which have a historic reputation for denoting wealth and prosperity. A handbag paired with a particularly beautiful garment has an authentic gut sack bottom, cleverly sewn into a heart shape as seen from below.

Dana Verrengia has her leather and beadwork displayed, as well, plus a series of four small wall hangings depicting various Alaska scenes, including a vibrant depiction of our beloved red salmon buddies.

Benjamin R. Baldwin has contributed two unique paintings. One is called “Dagedi T’et’ani” or “One That Makes Smoke” and is about Mount Redoubt erupting in the late 1980s. The piece is backed or matted by wild beach grass, and Baldwin has told his story using pigments made from fireweed, Alaska blackberry and powdered Kenai river rock. In “Nagh quinqudatl” or “They Have Returned to Us,” salmon are returning to their spawning grounds. In this he’s utilized fireweed, delphinium, Alaska blackberry, dog berry/leaf and crushed Kenai river rock. The depictions are subtle and earthy.

There is a sense of deep reverence and love that seems to come out of this compilation. It is good to see that efforts toward keeping the culture alive and well seem to be paying off. The dim but not sparse lighting of the space creates an ambiance that urges customers to feel comfortable with small talk as well as deeper discussion.

The next art show at the Funky Monkey will open with a First Thursday reception for photographer Allison Mattson from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday. Kaladi Brothers will likely have new artists to check out then, as well, but look for most First Thursday venues to have something going on in February. The first Thursday in January falls on the first day of the year, a day not likely to yield receptions or openings.

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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