Saturday, February 14, 2015

Sketching in the Rabinowitz

One of the many little field-trips that were taken over the course of last semester's Life Drawing studio art class was to the Rabinowitz Courthouse in downtown Fairbanks. One you get past the security it's a wonderful opportunity to see firsthand some very nice artwork on display, not the least of which are two pieces in the main lobby of the first floor (PDF). The first is "A Wilderness of Mystery" by Bill Brody (4’ h x 28’ w carved and painted copper mural, 2001):
“ … a panoramic view looking up American Creek to Mount Prindle, the tallest mountain in the White Mountains. The autumn colors of the dwarf birch, berries, and lichen counterpoint the cooler tones of the mountains, granite tors, and blowing sky. The mural is intended to foster the connection between the enduring beauty of the Alaska wilderness and the peole who live and work in Fairbanks, on the verge of the untamed outdoors. The copper panels are carved by techniques derived from printmaking, and the painting was done with small, soft brushes using transparent colors.”
The second is "Sila" by Ron Senungetuk:
"This three-cluster sculpture is suspended from the second story ceiling above the main lobby and softens the formal feeling of the lobby with its asymmetrical design and wash of warm colors. The slow movement of the mobile is intended to mimic the aurora of the northern hemisphere. The term “Sila” is an Inupiaq term for cosmos. The sculpture is constructed of tapered laminated silver maple strips in a variety of lengths and with stainless steel components."
Ostensibly we were there to enact a time-honored role for a special species of artists: courtroom sketchers. 

Clockwise from top: excerpted images from Aggie Kenny, Elizabeth Williams and Mona Shafer Edward.

This particular historically important subgenre in the medium has unfortunately become mostly obsolete what with the advent and acceptance of photography in the courtroom. Still it dovetailed perfectly with my Life Drawing course in that it was an excellent opportunity to engage in not just an outstanding arena for practicing our observational skills as artists, but also to remind us of our civic duty as a citizen.

From the outset of this particular class I was determined not to do the standard default method of basically running a timer (…“change” … “change” etc.) for a model for the duration of the semester. It's LIFE drawing - and life doesn't (normally) present you with nudes who stand around posing perfectly still while you compose artsy-fartsy sketches. After the requisite classical lessons such as formal anatomical studies, in conjunction with crucial drilling in gestures and traditional portraiture leavened with caricature, we left the confines of the department studio and set about integrating with the community at large, sketchbooks in hands. As per the usual MO there is a host of resources available right on campus, such as athletic activities in the Student Recreation Center, folks eating in the cafeteria, studying in the library etc. Even taking a ride on public transportation is a veritable buffet of situational models ie people sitting around, as is any cafĂ© and/or bar, or workplace.

Anyways, back to the courtroom: Really great accommodation + hospitality from the Administrative Office staff + the presiding judge: we got to observe Superior Court proceedings for a couple hours. Sure scared ME straight, especially when the formalities and legalistic jousting ended and it got real with the appearance of shackled defendants shuffling in for their respective arraignments.
Though I did get some funny ideas for one particular panel... the process for which was previously posted here.

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