This past weekend in Anchorage saw the culmination of almost a couple years of artistic vision by local Fairbanks sculptor Rachelle Dowdy.
Sunday, November 1st was the opening dedication for a multi-million dollar renovation to the Ted Stevens International Airport, featuring Rachelle's installation "From Here to There and There to Here" on Concourse "B." The work was commissioned by the municipality as part of the "Percent for Art" program:
"In 1975, the Legislature passed the Percent for Art in Public Places statute requiring the expenditure of up to one percent of the capital construction costs of public buildings for the acquisition and permanent installation of artwork."This is an extremely competitive and prestigious gig, and Rachelle was one of the four finalists awarded the project in January of 2008. After her mock-ups and engineering details were given the official green light, she began work on the first set of three birds one year ago. Rachelle currently works out of the Annex Gallery, occupying what used to be a garage for her studio, but still, due to limitations in space, it took some juggling with real-estate issues to ultimately produce a flock of fifteen full-sized geese. Their wingspans vary from six to eight feet across, and according to Rachelle; "the bodies are made of ferro-concrete, which means they're hollow and light ... the heaviest being 240lbs and the lightest 140lbs." The carved heads - which you can see a detail of here from a couple work-in-progress snapshots taken earlier this summer - are of spruce, the trees originally felled the year Rachelle was born, and salvaged from a cabin I used to rent in Ester.
Rachelle's phenomenal drive and discipline set her work apart from most everybody else on campus back when I was slogging away at a degree: her presence in the UAF Art department was a kick in the creative ass, and she still remains as one of the comparative handful of artists who graduated from that program (earning her BFA in '96) that are still producing consistently excellent work in this community. It's been nothing short of monumental to watch the evolution of such a large-scale project, eh, take wing, and gradually take shape over such a long period of sustained focus. I've written frequently of how important it can be to know of, interact with, and support other artists out there in the trenches, and having one of Rachelle's caliber around is both a big help and a major inspiration to me personally and many others. Congratulations from all of us!
Rachelle's work is featured here in Fairbanks at the UAF Museum of the North, the Annex Gallery & Exhibition Space and the Well Street Art Company; and she has had many solo shows and been in lots of group exhibitions all around the state, plus many of her pieces can be seen in public venues all around downtown Anchorage.
Not to mention the welcoming ones that will now greet travelers when they first arrive in Alaska...