Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Art Seen: Display brings out shared sense of color, introspection

Odie’s has been serving up more than sandwiches and coffee lately, with some really fine art displayed on the walls. Claire Rowley, Ashley Doremire, Sam Merry, Sue Zurfluh-Mann and Donna Schwanke are all artists who have taken classes at Kenai Peninsula College and have teamed up for an informal group exhibit at the popular sandwich shop on the Sterling Highway in Soldotna.

It is a show that hangs together better than most “student exhibits” tend to, and there seems to be a kindred spirit element to the arrangement. Most of the works actually feel like self-portraits, whether they are labeled as such or not. The abstracts have a vibrancy and immediacy that are as visually entertaining as they are colorful and accessible.

Sam Merry’s “Octopod” shows a geometrically stylized octopus that seems moody, quiet and intelligent. Most of the smoothly painted arms disappear off the edges of the frame, only to curl back inward toward the body of the creature. Sam is not afraid to let parts of the animal vanish into shadow, and the overall composition is maturely handled.

In “Sea, Land and Sun,” Claire Rowley (who is also an employee at Odie’s) has allowed the underlying painted texture to further animate her already dynamic brushstrokes. There is a yin/yang element to the piece without becoming trite or obvious. Another of her works, a fiber piece called “Family Dynamics,” is a happy, Picassoish wall hanging. The lines are bold and energized, the mostly primary colors strong but proportionately interesting. The title allows for easy empathy.

“Alone and Inbetween” is a painting by Ashley Doremire, and has a nice balance of abstract and representational elements. It feels as much, if not more so, like an honest self-portrait as her “Self Portrait,” which is still a fun and quirky little piece that depicts a severed head wearing big, red, squarish sunglasses and a somewhat petulant expression.

The character and emotional tone of “Alone and Inbetween,” however, tells me of a young woman with both the courage to take chances, and the thoughtfulness to learn from the results of whatever experience ensues. There is a reaching up and a digging down that create a striking balance.

It’s refreshing to view a joint exhibit that allows for so much personality to shine through the individual pieces, as well as the show as a whole. The exhibit will remain on view through the rest of January.

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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