12x12: Juneau artists create a work in progress

Posted: Thursday, March 17, 2005

You may have come across Patrick Ripp and Stacey Eldemar's artistic visions in the Gold Creek Basin or at Outer Point. For the last year and a half, the Juneau artists have been playing with nature's patterns, a la environmental sculptor Andy Goldsworthy, star of the 2001 documentary "Rivers and Tides."

One time in the creek, they sorted out white rocks and arranged them into a shape within the river. Down in the basin, they created a pyramid out of stone. Over at the point, they created a 412-foot-tall rock cairn, sturdy enough to last through a few tides. In their front yard and on their deck, they've surprised their neighbors with a series of geometric ice sculptures.

"We're always looking for art projects to jump in on and explore," said Eldemar, a driving test examiner. "Both of us just like playing and dallying with leaves, twigs and stones, looking for patterns and making patterns where there are none."

Their latest project is a departure, in that it's indoors. Ripp and Eldemar are two of more than 40 artists who are creating foot-by-foot art installations this month on the gallery walls of the Juneau-Douglas City Museum.

The "12x12" show, so-named because each artists' square measures 12-by-12 inches, concludes with a closing reception, from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Friday, March 25. The works will be painted over, beginning March 28.

In the meantime, the public is welcome to watch the artists finish their pieces. As of Saturday, at least 10 had not begun. Admission to the museum is free on Tuesdays through Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"It's been really interesting to see how artists can break those rules, and what they're actually doing with their 12-by-12 squares," museum director Jane Lindsey said. "Jeff Brown has tiles going. Other artists are building off the wall. Some artists are doing two or more 12-by-12 squares within the space that's been given to them.

"I think what we're also really enjoying is that it's turned our temporary gallery into a studio space," she said. "I don't know how that works for the viewer, but you enter the room and everything's in a different stage, and it's really about the process of making art and the process of being creative."

So far, Ripp and Eldemar's piece is half-complete. Ripp has created an anamorphosis -a skewed image on a curved surface that appears normal when viewed in a mirror. It's a small cylindrical object, and when you look in a glass, it says, "Open Your Eyes."

Ripp, a physical therapist in town, has studied art in Juneau and France. He shared a joint show, "Large Heads and Other Curiosities," in October 2002 at the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council. He was introduced to anamorphosis while studying art six years ago at University of Alaska Southeast. On a subsequent trip to Florence, Italy, he saw Salvador Dali's work in the genre.

By the end of the week, Eldemar plans to complete an accompanying tessellation - a mathematical-based pattern of repeating shapes. M.C. Escher is one of the best known artists of the genre. Eldemar's work will be a pattern of Native-themed eyes, most red, white or black, with one blue.

"We tried to come up with a theme or a subject matter," Ripp said. "The original plan was to have her do a tessellation and then I would make an anamorphic drawing out of it. But I found that would be much too labor intensive."

Amy Kesten and seven of her students at Yaakoosge Daakahidi, the alternative high school, are creating installations in the glass-cabinet alcove near the back of the gallery. Yaakoosge is not offering art courses this quarter.

"We have a lot of really creative students at Yaakoos, and because they're not allowed to take courses at the high school, except on a case-by-case basis, no one's taking art right now," Kesten said. She teaches electives, special education, art, English and life skills.

"I thought this was the perfect opportunity for students to have (an artistic) outlet," she said. "And I think it will be a nice positive experience for kids to come work and be on the same wall with people like Rick Clair, Ken DeRoux and Jane Terzis."

At first, Kesten was strict that the students had to work on their projects at the museum. She loosened that requirement when she saw that other artists were working at home. She bought canvas and 12-by-12-inch stretchers for some students who wanted to paint at home.

"Even though we've been around for years, people don't know that we're the alternative school," Kesten said. "I think we're slowly getting rid of the image that we're the school for the kids that didn't make it, and a lot of the negative connotations. I'm hoping that people will see that we're a school with a lot of creative students."

The small square hasn't been a stretch for Juneau artist Paula Wright, a member of the downtown co-op Juneau Artists Gallery. Wright regularly paints on 12-by-12-inch floor tiles.

"I thought it would be interesting to meet new artists, and also to participate in something for the museum to help bring in new people," Wright said. "I hope they have this every year. It's probably one of the most fun things I've done with my art."



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