Friday, March 19, 2010

(Belated) First (Third) Friday (March '10)

Once again the howling arctic wind blew across the vast wasteland of Interior Alaska, stirring up all sorts of artistic endeavors for March. It's like an aesthetic spring breakup: uncovered treasures lain dormant all winter running all over the place, mixing up the grubby and messy with forgotten and newfound pleasures.

Untitled Moose mâché  by Megan Smith, Grade 7

First on First Friday was the annual Up With Art exhibition: a whopping 263 works culled from the entire district school's art students are now up on display for the rest of the month in the Fairbanks Arts Association's Bear Gallery. Having previously been a juror for this show, and it being my personal favorite exhibit of the year, I wasn't let down at the breadth & depth of works. And again, some of the most impressive pieces from assorted talents were demonstrations of basic technique showing mastery of a particular medium, counterbalanced against ones that maybe weren't as refined but much more conceptually interesting. And once again, the entire show is quite a showcase for not just the individual students but the collective talents of the tireless art teachers in the Interior.

Well Street Art Company is hosting two shows: Amanda Bent's new mixed media works (shown here to the left is a detail from one of her pieces "Lamb"); and "Emergence" by Annie Duffy. Much of the artwork on display in local galleries and businesses tends to either wastefully take up space, or eventually become a part of it, aesthetically anesthetized by habitual over-exposure - but this collection of recent sculptural works from Duffy stood apart from most. Using cast paper, cotton, bent wood, and acrylic paint her pieces shape light and shadow to create an object that both moves and moves within space. Rare to be in the presence of a single piece that could fill a room on its own, and one gets the impression you are sharing space with these pieces: Emergence is a show that lingers and invites a viewer back to revisit again without all the people in the way. These pieces were the equivalent of finding intimate pleasure in simply sitting and looking at the movement of birch tree branches against the sky, versus for example being inundated by the noisy chaos of, for example, the constant crap on TV: given a choice one is infinitely more rewarding to look at and conversely much less popular. Then again, I'm one of those weirdos who gets terribly excited over a simple linework, which even as static three-dimensional objects Duffy's pieces possess a subtle inner movement. Also this display of simple white was a cleansing balm for the eyes after staring at the comparatively mindless abuse of color by so many other recent artists.

Color and texture underpin "Middl" - recent acrylic works of Inari Kylänen on display at The Annex (note: new hours are now just Thursday through Friday 1-6pm): whimsical scenes and playful characters tumble across the walls, each piece telling an introspective and intimate story to the viewer. Indeed many are tales told in the middle... without the extraneous "e" on the end. Shown here is a detail from "Electric Bunny Suit."
Also in the same gallery are UAF's "Frozen Lenses" photo club members who coordinated "Lens Fest," a group show curated by visiting photographer Jen Davis. Culled from the top three of each contributing artists' portfoio the imagery ranges from contemplative portraiture to contemplative environments - with some exceptional highlights from both Adam Ottavi Schiesl and Ben Huff.

As part of the Fairbanks Winter Carnival roster of festivities, the Arts Association also put on another Art Expo, this year running for only one day as opposed to the traditional weekend-long event. Both levels of the Civic Center were taken up with artists, organizations and vendors peddling their respective wares and giving demonstrations and workshops. Traffic was at a medium flow even with the host of other competing events, with donations benefiting the Community Food Bank, and it seemed overall to be a successful gig for the participants and a fun opportunity for folks to interact directly with local artisans.

Last but not least was the 37th Festival of Native Arts:
 "This tradition began in 1973, when a group of University of Alaska Fairbanks students and faculty (representing a variety of colleges and departments) met to consider a spring festival focused on the artistic expressions of each Alaska Native culture. In less than three months, perhaps for the first time in Alaska, Native artists, craftspeople and dancers from all major Native culture groups gathered together at UAF to share with each other, the University community and Fairbanks their rich artistic traditions."
Singers, dancers and drummers from villages, towns and cities across the state innudate UAF campus with all the familiar (and some new) sights, smells and sounds of this annual gathering. Potlach, powow and craft fairs give an opportunity to share in some diverse cultural experiences, both historical and contemporary, from a traditional Native Alaskan perspective. The "Yup'ik funk harmonies" of headlining group Pamyua also gave a couple benefit performances and also appeared onstage at the Festival this year. There was another healthy presence this year of graphic designs making the jump onto garments with several tables offering tshirts including from local business Nomadic Stars.

“Doing things the way you see it, going by your own heart and soul, that is pure artistic integrity. Whatever the hair is six or sixty inches long, the eyes have make-up or not, the riffs are in 'E' or 'F' sharp, the amps are Marshall or not, all those things don't matter if you are doing it for the right reason, which to me means doing it for yourself!” - Lars Ulrich

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