Varied views of the journey through life

Two new exhibits open at the Alaska State Museum

Posted: Thursday, February 01, 2001

Abstract paintings can be triggers for transcendence for artist Graham Dane.

The British-born painter hopes that the vivid colors and bold shapes in his work also will inspire an emotional response in viewers.

"I hope that people would be so overcome by the color and shapes, they wouldn't care about anything else, just be flooded with emotional response," he said. "Joy, confusion, triggering past memories. You can never tell. If 50 people come up with 50 different interpretations, that's acceptable."

The Alaska State Museum exhibit of the Anchorage artist's work opens Friday. An exhibit of paintings by artist Joan Hornig of Ester will open at the same time in an adjoining gallery. A reception for the artists will be held from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at the museum with presentations by artists following the reception. Admission is free.

Dane, 36, grew up in Brighton, England, and studied art at Oxford and in London. He came to abstraction in a roundabout way. He spent years in life drawing, drawing models and modeling himself, he said. He painted portraits and numerous works of British railway stations in London.

"I was very interested in the existential motif of the journey as personal change," he said.

He studied the work of existential writers, and over time was drawn to mysticism and shamanism. He said he's still very interested in the journey as a metaphor for personal growth, but he moved away from figurative representations of travel. Abstract painting reflects a more interior journey.


Young Joan Works Out: Artist Joan Hornig draws on her childhood as well as her imagination for inspiration in a new series of paintings. Her exhibit opens Friday at the Alaska State Museum.


"Shamanism teaches traveling to another plane to acquire knowledge, knowledge that you can bring back," Dane said. "I think art can do the same thing."

Dane will present about 30 works, all done in the past two years. He said there will be 10 paintings as large as 4-by-7 feet, 15 small paintings, and 10 very small works, just 6-by-9 inches. The large paintings are oil pastel and acrylic on canvas; the smaller are mixed media on paper.

Joan Hornig's paintings incorporate a montage of elements painted around a strong central figure. These elements include patterns from textiles and wallpaper, stencils she has cut, and images from her imagination. Several paintings include stencils of figures looking into the painting.

"They are the audience," Hornig said. "They're just watching, seeing what's going on." Many feature a character she calls Young Joan, an 8year-old girl that is both a representation of young Hornig and a more universal character, a young suburban American. In "Young Joan Works Out" (Page 9), Hornig has juxtaposed elements from her childhood in the San Francisco Bay area.

"That was derived from a family photograph of my brother doing a pull up," Hornig said. "So I put Young Joan doing a pull up to convey the image of someone getting stronger. She's graceful and awkward last the same time."

She said she draws on her own family history for inspiration.

"You paint what you know," she said. "It's a reminder of who I am and where I'm from."

Hornig moved from Seattle in late 1999 to Ester, just outside of Fairbanks. All the paintings in the show were done in the past year. Several feature a moose as the main character.

"We have moose living in our backyard now, and that's a new thing for me. It's part of my life now," she said. "My paintings are about who I am and where I am in life now."

The two exhibits will be on display through March 17.

Riley Woodford can be reached at

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