Thursday, December 11, 2008

Art Seen — Many moose

I see moose. They’re everywhere. They eat our compost when times are tough. Sometimes they get in the way of our vehicles, and vice versa. I’ve had one try to cross a small bridge with me, bumping my car into the opposite guardrail, ever so gently.

They are mysterious and majestic, powerful, gangly and awkward, all at once. Regardless of how we feel about them, they are a common part of our experience, one that is explored with visual media in an exhibit that is a brainchild of Bill Heath’s, and presented by the Peninsula Art Guild at the Kenai Fine Arts Center.

“Only Moose” is an invitational exhibit Heath had been thinking about for years and put into action about a year and a half ago. Rather than send out invites to a list of chosen artists, he used a more casual approach by mentioning the exhibit in random conversations. Interestingly, the latecomers to the project were the ones to enter more pieces than those who had significantly longer lead time. The artists came through in typical Kenai Peninsula fashion, entering a wide variety of media, including photography (both classic and digital), graphite drawing, pottery, fiber, found object sculpture, oil, acrylic and watercolor painting, and pen and ink.

Many of the pieces are fanciful, like Donna Steele’s “Asneakin & Apeakin,” a line
drawing in India ink, and Pat Lytle’s sweet portrait “Amble.”

Much of the photography is of the expected “look who I found in my yard” variety, but Heath himself included two thoughtful pieces, both with the media description “photo-based artwork.” “Moose Ears” is a nearly iridescent-on-black image that feels as if one is looking through stained glass at the fireweed and ears-only hint of a young moose. In “Brown Water,” you find the adult moose swimming in shallow water, but the image has been so abstracted as to feel like a monoprint on rice paper or even something more exotic.

Genevieve Klebba’s interesting photographic entry is of a male and female moose in a marsh. The image is quite grainy, and the contrast has been pumped up, also giving the effect of some sort of printmaking. Timothy Oliver’s quiet watercolor, “Thriving,” also deserves mention. It is understated and lovely, rendered in surprising greens and blues.

One of my most favored works is a freestanding piece by Joy Falls titled “Moose Diaries.” She uses a skull, barbed wire, stone, pencil and paint to create a really fascinating sculpture. An imaginary diary sprawls across the skull, which is both comical and tragic.

Gaye LaRane’s watercolor/acrylic strips spin freely, each suspended from a spot in the ceiling. The tones are earthy, and the textures inviting.

I decided to execute a fairly traditional work for this exhibit, which I have realized is especially unusual, judging from the responses I’ve gotten. One woman who has seen my work for years expressed surprise that I worked representationally. It is called “Law of Economy,” and is a fairly large oil over acrylic on canvas of a mother moose and her offspring who shines purple in the nighttime light. The handling is fairly loose, and the mood verges on ominous. Rarely do I mention my own work in these articles, but I thought I would throw that one in. It was an interesting task.

Two of my other favorites surrounded my own on display: Pat Lytle’s “Drifting” done in soft pastel with swirled and cloudy glazing, and Anne Louise Gillilan’s “Signs of Spring,” a photo of moose droppings revealing themselves as ice begins to thaw in a puddle. The composition is good and the printing basically flawless, with a nice tonal range of blacks, grays and full whites. Both pieces say a lot with just a little.

We really do seem to love our moose, whether we are recording their aesthetically pleasing droppings, or telling a loving story, like in Pam Mersch’s “Harvest I,” in fiber, and “Harvest II,” in mixed media, where she visually explains the missing broccoli from her garden-acquired meal. And even more so when we are pleading for their welfare, as in “Traffic Control” a digital illustration by Chris Jenness. From the looks of it, these powerful, lovely creatures are a revered and adored part of our community, and are here to stay in our hearts and minds. The exhibit runs through this week.

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.

No comments: