Art shows offer range of styles

Well-known brothers stage first exhibit together

Posted: Thursday, March 02, 2000

Artists and brothers Dan and Ken DeRoux blend realism with imagination, but in very different ways.

Just how different will be highlighted in a joint show opening Friday at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum. Although Ken and Dan are veterans of numerous exhibits, with work in dozens of museums, galleries and private collections, this is the first time they've ever exhibited their paintings together.

A reception will be held from 4:30 to 6:30 at the museum at Fourth and Main streets. The brothers will also do a joint slide presentation of their artwork and talk about art from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday.

The DeRoux brothers grew up in Juneau. Dan, now almost 50 and six years younger than Ken, said Ken started painting first.

``He painted in high school and at home. I was always watching him work,'' Dan said. ``Then he went off and I didn't start painting for a few more years.''

Ken said after he left Juneau, he shifted to filmmaking and then got into museum work. He lived in San Francisco and returned to Juneau in 1978. He said he didn't get back into painting seriously until 1980.

Although Dan started later, he's consistently painted for almost 30 years. His paintings feature enigmatic blends of characters and locations, evoking stories that aren't quite clear.


``His stuff has always been like that,'' Ken said. ``Initially it was things like childhood imagery, guys pushing lawn mowers, sitting in lawn chairs, Dick-and-Jane primer stuff. He's evolved his own motifs and characters. He's also played off art history as well.

The eight paintings in this show are no exception. One painting, ``Delft, Alaska'' juxtaposes the medieval Dutch city of Delft with Juneau's setting on Gastineau Channel.

``It's fun to look at Juneau in a different city planner's kind of eye, with canals instead of streets,'' Dan said. ``Then there's the whole international globalization of the world, and it's an interesting take to shift everything around.''

Dan said he, like many visual artists, incorporates references from art history into his work, in part as homage to the artists and their classic paintings. Delft was the home of 17th century master Jan Vermeer, one of Dan's favorite painters.

Dan said he's also trying to make pictures that are interesting to look at. He'll sometimes start with an image that begs to be placed in a different context, he said. Other times he paints to realize a fully formed idea.

One such recent painting featured in the show is ``Don't Call Me Shirley,'' a carefully planned work that depicts a walrus dancing in a forest, with white feathers spiraling up into the evening sky.

It sounds whimsical, but Dan said he was actually dealing with a serious subject, the decline and death of a friend. He said the painting is homage to a talented artist who was weighed down by his addictions. To express that, he contrasted the graceful ballerina as a heavy walrus.

The 6-foot-high painting at the show this weekend is actually Dan's second version of ``Don't Call Me Shirley.''

``I painted a small one that sold at the state museum. It's the only painting I've ever done that I had a really hard time letting go of,'' he said. ``After I sold it, I painted another, with a few changes.''

Ken's paintings are distinctly different from Dan's. He also draws heavily on his imagination, but paints expressionistic and interpretive visions of landscapes.

``Usually I start with my own idea, from scratch,'' he said. ``They're really about arranging forms and colors, which is the fun part of it.''

In the past Ken depicted Alaska landscapes, but he said his recent works are not really Alaska scenes.

``I'm not sure what you'd call it. They involve mountains and cliffs and rivers and plains and lakes. Some tend to be a little mysterious,'' he said. ``I'm developing a collection of landscape motifs of my own. I can use them and combine them.''

Like Dan, Ken also has a painting in the show inspired by another artist's work. Ken said he has a new work that is a landscape version of an abstract painting by Robert Motherwell, a mid-20th century American abstract artist.

He said he saw the Motherwell painting and it reminded him of his own work. He used it as a jumping-off point for a painting of cliffs and trees.

``Usually you start with a landscape and make it abstract,'' he said.

Both DeRouxes will have about 10 paintings in the show. The exhibit will be on display through April.

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