Retired art professor Fumi Matsumoto was contemplating whether to enter this year's "12x12" exhibition at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum, when she thought of her friend and mentor, 82-year-old Liz Berry, battling Parkinson's disease in Fairbanks.
"She would always put driftwood pieces on her pots, and I didn't have time to make a pot for the show, but I wanted to make something," Matsumoto said. "I walked outside and found some pieces of driftwood and made a frame, and got some silver wire and started weaving this web."
Eventually, she added a beaded spider - the centerpiece to "Kumo," her foot-by-foot installation. It's one of 35 entries in the museum's second annual "12x12" show, which opens with a First Friday reception from 4:30-7 p.m. Friday, March 3.
The museum has been soliciting art works for the past few months with one firm requirement: all pieces must measure no more than 12 inches on each side. The finished exhibition includes a variety of paintings, sculptures, collage, textiles and quite a few dogs. "12x12" runs through Saturday, March 25.
Matsumoto, a former ceramics professor at University of Alaska Southeast, usually works in pottery and paper. She made paper and clay raku fish at the last UAS faculty show and constructed miniature, decorative crab pots out of recycled material for the Juneau Public Market, last winter at Centennial Hall.
"Kumo" - Japanese for "spider" - was her first project in a while. She took a crash-course in beading to build the spider. Shortly after she finished, she received a telephone call: Berry had died.
"Liz has always been my mentor, and when I moved to Fairbanks and taught up there she was such a close friend," Matsumoto said. "I wasn't able to be up in Fairbanks when she passed away, but with this pieces I feel there's a little bit of closure. She was edging me on."
Homer artist Sarah Banks, in town temporarily while her husband works for Alaska state Rep. Paul Seaton, created "Dough Cycle" for "12x12." It's a tricycle made out of home-made, yeasted pieces of hot-glued bread dough. Banks graduated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and an emphasis in sculpture. One of her first sculptures was a tricycle made out of foam.
"It sort of has a nostalgic feel," Banks said. "I have an 8-month-old child (Sidney), so I'm fulfilling my need of making sculpture in a nontoxic way."
Banks screwed together two pieces of plywood at a right angle to provide the bike a shelf to rest. This was her first attempt at dough-sculpting. She tried using silicon before switching to hot glue.
"I sort of drew out what I thought I would need, and baked a bunch of extra pieces," Banks said. "It was kind of a trial by error. I had the oven on for about five hours."
Hetty Barthel created "Myra's Menu" - a copy of Myra Munson's 2005 menu for the annual, elaborate Alaska Native Health Board dinner she holds for 70-plus guests at her Gastineau Avenue home. Appropriately, Barthel adhered the menu to napkins.
"I saw that menu and thought, 'This is a work of art,'" Barthel said. "She's a meticulous person, and I just thought, 'I'm going to put this on something and submit it."
The Cosgrove Family - Tom; Mila; Coleman, 7; and Natalie, 5 - spent two weeks creating a rambling tower of colored toothpicks, joined by Elmer's glue. They chose the title "No Agreement," because they couldn't agree on a title.
Tom created a toothpick sculpture as a child and decided to show his kids how they could build their own. It grew over the course of days. Eventually they heard about "12x12" and glued the sculpture to a wooden base, which Coleman and Natalie painted.
"It was a good way to end the project and share our work," he said. "It gave us a focus and the kids were quite proud to take it in."
How many toothpicks?
"Eight hundred ninety-five trillion gazillion," Natalie estimated.
"Several hundred I'd say," Tom said. "We had lots of help. It was sometimes very quick and sometimes somewhat stressful."
Korry Keeker can be reached at email@example.com