Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Art Seen: Jury’s in — Biennial exhibit has plenty to consider

I recently had the interesting task of co-judging the Biennial Judged Exhibit at the Kenai Fine Arts Center this year, with Potter’s Guild president Charlie LaForge.

Each year it seems I get more excited about the range and quality that comes in, regardless of the format. Every other year is a “juried” exhibit, rather than “judged,” meaning pieces are selected to be included in the exhibit, and there are many that do not hang or display.

As was the case this year, all entered pieces are eligible, and the judge’s job is to choose the awards and honorable mentions. The competition is obviously much greater for the juried shows, and our guest juror is usually someone from out of our immediate area (in case he or she needs a quick getaway. Jurors are occasionally given a hard time for their choices, which are, of course, subjective, but always educated).

The following were given cash awards for their placement in this year’s exhibit:
Best of Show: John Lagoutaris, ceramics, “I Am Free in the Rapid River Waters of Destiny.”

  • 1st Place 3-D: Shirley Seanor, pine needle weaving, “Jug With Lid.”
  • 2nd Place 3-D: Heather Floyd, cast bronze using a lost wax method, “Sphere I.”
  • 1st Place 2-D: Erica Miller, pastel, “Chasing the Sun #2.”
  • 2nd Place 2-D: Joseph Kashi, digital photography, “Frozen Windows.”
  • 3rd Place 2-D: Traci Knutson, Polaroid transfer over Palladium print with watercolor, “Melancholy.”
  • Honorable mentions: A. Jane Alford, Allan Janonis, Andy Hehnlin, Clayton Hillhouse, Connie Tarbox, Donna Schwanke, Juanita Hillhouse, Kristin Edwards, Marali Sargeant-Smith, Pamela Mersch, Sandra Sterling, Steven Pannarelli, Tony Oliver and Tracie Howard.

I spoke with a few of the placers in the exhibit to try and get more of a sense of the processes that led them to the finished pieces.

Traci Knutson took a workshop on Palladium printing before creating the small but fascinating portrait of her dog. Palladium is a metal that is mixed with a chemical and acts as an emulsion that is then painted on a surface, in this case watercolor paper. It’s then developed using a large digital negative and long exposure times.

She transferred parts of the same image from Polaroid shots right onto the Palladium print using a water bath, and added some watercolor to finish the effect. Charlie and I were both drawn to the unusual psychology of the piece and were intrigued by the possible meaning of the artist’s choices. Upon questioning, Traci agreed that there were intense dynamics surrounding the work, as well as the animal that is no longer with us.

John Lagoutaris’ work was also quite striking in its symbolism and emotional qualities. He calls himself an intuitive artist, one who is not so much of a drafter, but interested in letting the foundation determine the outcome. He then moves along with the piece as it evolves. There were many layers of work, and numerous firings over the course of a year to achieve the surface he was shooting for. The soulful longing evident in the expression and the bold execution of the work helped to land its placement as Best of Show.

Joe Kashi’s photography is unmanipulated digitally, save for some range changes in the light to dark ratio. He frequently finds himself looking for interesting abstractions that are already existing in reality, and then capturing them like a found object. The windows are especially ripe for unusual aberrations due to the old single-pane glass and abundance of cooking inside Veronica’s Coffee House during frigid winter months.

Joe claims that what a photographer needs in order to capture these little gems are an open and still mind, and of course a keen eye. Oh, and also the ability to avoid the picturesque, unless it can be handled in a completely new way.

The exhibit stays up through the end of the month and then comes down to make way for the Kenai Peninsula Borough Student Exhibit. Gallery hours are 12 to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

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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