KETCHIKAN — The Tongass Historical Museum will be alive with crashing waves, misty landscapes and salty characters at the opening of its “Reflections: Paintings and Prints from the Permanent Collection” exhibit Friday.
City of Ketchikan Museums Director Michael Naab, who was painting the hardware on the exhibit’s oldest painting Wednesday afternoon in preparation to hang it, said the show is made up of all two-dimensional works.
“It’s a very eclectic selection,” Naab said.
The exhibit features classic oil and watercolor paintings of dramatic landscapes, seascapes and portraits, ranging through more “wacky modern” pieces to several types of prints.
The exhibit also includes works by Alaska’s “giants in traditional arts,” Naab said, such as Sydney Laurence, Eustace Ziegler and Jules Dahlager, Naab said.
Laurence’s work is part of every Ketchikan High School student’s day, because his large painting of Denali hangs in that building.
Dahlager lived in Ketchikan, and worked for the Ketchikan Daily News. Naab said he painted many quick, small pieces, and his wife, a teacher, used to give those away as rewards to her students who performed well.
There also is a painting by Laurence’s wife, Jeanne Laurence. The museum’s senior curator of collections, Richard Van Cleave, said she was a well-known painter of flowers who lived in the Anchorage area. Her untitled oil painting in this show depicts a mountainous landscape.
The painting Naab was prepping depicts the Mary Island custom house, painted by Edwin Hofstad.
The newest works in the show are by local artists with familiar names: Mary Ida Henrikson, Jack Hudson, Marilyn Lee, Leslie Morgan, Terry Pyles, Dave Rubin, Ray Troll and Evon Zerbetz.
The stylized painting of an Alaska Native wearing a carved hat by Henrikson was the first piece the museum purchased with a Rasmuson grant, Naab said.
One piece painted by Pyles in 2008, “European Starling Pestilence,” is small, but especially eye-catching.
In the crisp, ultra-realistic style he is known for, a starling poses as Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. The bird appears every bit as solemn and secretive as the woman, and is dressed formally as well.
To add to the surreal effect, a volcano flowing with lava and a tornado loom in the background on each side of the placid bird’s head. Angling across the bird’s chest is a rifle. Naab said Pyles painted the work as an homage to classic European artists.
Naab said the last time the museum featured a similar show was a “recent acquisitions” exhibit a couple of years ago.
He said museum staff chose pieces for the Reflections show that hadn’t been featured recently.
One intriguing little linoleum block print was created by Ballard Hadman, who also was a published author. Naab said the print, which depicts figures paddling a Native canoe through a channel, also was a Christmas card, and has a greeting from Hadman scribed on the back.
One larger painting, frothing with thick spikes of oil paint swirling as Ketchikan Creek’s water through its downtown ravine, was created by Jesuit priest Andrew William Vachon in 1959.
Many of the paintings were purchased by the Tongass Historical Society, which ran the museum until about 1980, Naab said. When the Ketchikan Arts and Crafts Guild, no longer in existence, held an exhibit, the society would purchase a piece for its permanent collection.
One of the paintings in the show, a watercolor titled “Ketchikan Creek,” by Nancy Taylor Stonington, was commissioned by the society in 1977.
The exhibit opening reception will be from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Friday at the Tongass Historical Museum. The exhibit will be available for viewing through April 13.
“It’ll be a fun show,” Naab said.