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Fairbanks arts student reflects on his mixed heritage, capturing top prize in annual juried photographic show

Posted: Thursday, March 02, 2006

University of Alaska Fairbanks fine arts student Da-ka-xeen Mehner won the Juror's Choice Ward in the biennial juried photographic exhibition Alaska Positive 2006 for "7/16th," a series of digitally transposed layers highlighting his mixed heritage.

The picture includes a ghostly image of Mehner, with his natural part-red/part-white goatee, with a copy of his Bureau of Indian Affairs Certificate of Indian Blood card superimposed over the shot. He's 3/16 Tlingit, 1/4 Tsimshian.

"I was going through a lot of paperwork on applying for scholarship information, and it all required the CIB card," Mehner said. "It got me thinking about the certificate itself and how the federal government defines Native Americans and how I define myself. I was just asking questions about the definition and how relevant it is."

Alaska Positive 2006 opens with a reception from 4:30-7 p.m. Friday, March 3, during the First Friday art walk. Sixty-five photographers submitted a total of 231 photographs for the show. Nagatani selected 49 pictures, representing 35 artists.

The show includes 14 Juneau photographers: Mark Kelley, Ron Klein, Greg Bledsoe, Joe Sonneman, Gail Smith, Michael Penn, Marilyn Holmes, Gloria Merry, Iris Korhonen, Shar Fox, Pat Kalbaugh, Daniel Buck, Buddy Ferguson and Rebecca Tyson Smith.

"In the final analysis, I think it's a hot show," said juror Patrick Nagatani, an art professor at the University of New Mexico. "A past juror said the show they juried would hold up in any state in the union among photographers. Ninety percent of the applicants knew what they were doing, both in handling the camera, handing whether it was analog or digital, mounting or matting the work and a crisp and clean presentation."

Homer photographer Aleda Yourdon earned an Award of Recognition for "White Rabbit," a silver gelatin print taken last summer, when she organized an Alice in Wonderland-style Mad Hatter's Tea Party in a lot adjacent to her house. The shot depicts a 5-year-old boy, dressed as the White Rabbit, checking his pocketwatch. In the background, a near-perfect Alice, the daughter of one of Yourdon's friends, looks on.

alaska positive 2006

juror's choice award: da-ka-xeen mehner, "7/16th"

award of recognition: beverly cover, "patch with wind"; aleda yourdon, "white rabbit"

special honorable mention: william heith, "light"; george provost, "stone stairs"

honorable mention: jay barrett, "the music"; carl battreall, "rainbow creek"; greg bledsoe, "fire and lights"; jane cloe, "clean rooms"; buddy ferguson, "southbound solitude"; shar fox, "peace prayer"; jayne m. jones, "discontent"; barry mcwayne, "decadent fireweed #1, bird form"; richard j. murphy, "fortymile river."

Yourdon was inspired after seeing an advertisement in the paper touting a "Mad Hatter's Tea Party." She began grooming the grounds next to her home a few years ago. She began work on a 4-foot wire and papier mache teapot in February of 2005. Ultimately, she created a tea table, hired a chainsaw artist to carve mushrooms out of tree stumps and solicited some friends to help make costumes.

Eleven kids attended the party in full dress, including the Cheshire Cat, Tweedledum and Tweedledee. An adult played the queen. Thirty-three shots from the party appeared last August in "Just Ask Alice," an exhibition at the Fireweed Gallery in Homer.

"It was an amazing day, and all the kids really got into character," Yourdon said.

Beverly Cover also won an Award of Recognition for "Patch With Wind," a slightly blurred shot of a twisting path disappearing into a forest.

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