A Local Art Collector

Tony Hand uses his permanent fund dividend to amass more than 50 pieces of SE art

Posted: Thursday, March 23, 2006

When Tony Hand moved to Alaska in the late 1980s and started getting Alaska Permanent Fund dividend checks in the mail, he decided it was time to start buying art.

"I always figured that was free money," Hand said. "They have the 1 Percent For Art for high schools. People who love art should just take 10 percent of their permanent fund check and go out and buy art."

Hand, a longtime employee at the Alaskan Brewing Co., has about 50 pieces in his home, including a collection of wooden bowls and blown-glass paperweights. He eschews landscapes and "motel art," in favor of "anything that strikes my fancy." And he considers his latest acquisition his most surreal purchase.

During the March 3 First Friday opening for Douglas artist Rachael Juzeler's "Rust, Dirt and Deer Legs" exhibition at Two Crow Studio and Gallery, Hand was drawn to a work called "Last Dance" hanging on the far wall near the refrigerator.

Juzeler - one of Hand's co-workers at the brewery - took a deer leg, covered it with a fishnet stocking and attached ceramic near the hoof to make it appear as if the limb was wearing a high heel.

"A lot of people were saying, 'Wait until you see Last Dance. That's the one you want,'" Hand said. "And once I saw it, I was like, 'Yeah, that's what I need to have.'"

"It's bizarre, but it's just great. It's taking something common and making it uncommon. It's one of those things. What would other people think when they saw that hanging? What would your mom think of you having a dead deer leg on your wall?"

Juzeler was inspired by a rock album cover she had seen, but couldn't recall the name of the record. Hand thought it was the inside cover from the Rolling Stones' "Goat Head Soup," but checked when he got home and discovered it was a different album.

who buys art?

this week the juneau empire begins a monthly series looking at the people who buy locally created art at the many exhibitions around town. the series features art that has been purchased while it's still hanging for public view.

rachael juzeler's "last dance," and the rest of her "rust, dirt and deer legs" exhibition can be seen at 5-8 p.m. fridays and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. saturdays at two crow studio and gallery, 245 marine way.

"It reminds me of some rock album, but I don't know what it is," Hand said. "It reminds me of the early-70s rock era, that type of artwork that was on record albums."

Juzeler incorporates deer legs throughout the exhibition, up through the month at the small gallery above Paradise Cafe, 245 Marine Way. She was given 24 deer legs after a friend returned from hunting. She soaked the legs in salt for two months, smoked them for four days, placed them in kiln, coated them with baking soda and put them back in the kiln. Most of the legs are covered in white wax. They don't smell and they're remarkably well-preserved. The fur is still intact.

"I usually buy functional stuff, and this is the most dysfunctional piece that I've ever bought," Hand said. "It's the most bizarre piece I've ever seen. The first thing I asked Rachael was how decomposable it was. You don't want to hang up something that's going to rot on your wall."

His first purchase was a Jon Van Zyle print of a full moon and an owl. He has a series of Homer photographer Aleda Yourdon's framed card-stock prints. and a print of Douglas artist Charles Whipple's "Two Lips" - two red lips floating in a white background.

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"(Haines artist) Guy Hoffman, he did wooden bowls, and I'd see him down at the Juneau Public Market and always say, 'I'm going to buy one of your bowls,'" Hand said, "He'd say, 'I'm coming back every year until you buy one.' And then he passed away from a heart attack.

"You start realizing that if you don't buy it now, sometimes you're never going to find that piece of art again," he said. "You gotta pamper yourself. You work for a reason, and you should reward yourself. You always have to find space. There's the bathroom, the kitchen.

"I don't buy the motel art kind of stuff. Unless it's very abstract and colorful, it's just not something I would hang up. There's so much good art up here, and good odd art, that you don't have to buy the fireweed in the Mendenhall Valley."

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