'A Duality' Meditations on man & nature

Juneau artists Alan Munro and Paul Disdier team up for city museum exhibit

Posted: Friday, April 11, 2003

If paintings could harmonize like musical tones, then "A Duality," a show by Alan Munro and Paul Disdier at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum, would be an unexpected but balanced duet. "We took some time in hanging it to make sure all the pieces worked together," Munro said. "I don't think we had any arguments, but it took us hours."

Munro and Disdier have been friends since 1974, when both worked at the Alaska State Museum. Their careers and styles have taken different directions but their shared interest in art has converged in the show. "A Duality" will be at the city museum until April 19.

The two artists have very different styles; many of Munro's pieces in the show are literal interpretations of animals hunted for subsistence while Disdier paints abstract, surreal landscapes. Still, when the paintings hang next to each other, the slope of a goose's neck in Munro's painting echoing the shape of Disdier's abstract pastel waterfalls, it is as if the two artists shared a studio.

Disdier is relatively new to the art scene in Juneau, though he studied art in college and has had shows Outside. His portion of the show focuses primarily on Southeast landscape scenes: mountains, beaches, ice and waterfalls. He paints from memory, "without subject matter," he said.

Disdier's trademark style uses intricately constructed colors, made from layering and texturing oil paint. Many of his paintings use a palette of tones that match the natural shades of a cold, spring sunset on the Juneau mountains.

"I am very influenced by Southeast. Most all of these paintings are images I have seen somewhere," he said. "I like things that deal with paint and landscape and color."

In his portion of the show, Munro contemplates the interaction between man and nature, with renderings of hunted animals and birds such as moose, waterfowl and deer, using a palette of strong primary colors.

"I kind of had a theme - tourism, Alaska clichés and subsistence," he said.

Munro painted a series about one specific deer he shot and injured, and then had to shoot again. The series begins with a painting of a deer in the woods with the Tlingit word for deer, "gu wakaan," painted across his realistic nature scene. Many of the paintings in the show include Tlingit words, which Munro calls "rural graffiti."

"I was kind of intrigued with the idea of graffiti, " Munro explained. "I got a Tlingit noun book, and I painted that on there, literally defacing the painting."

The second painting in the deer series is a fantasy interpretation of the deer's spirit leaving its body.

"I cry every time I shoot a deer and I'm not ashamed to say it," Munro said. "I had to paint to work it out. I wasn't sleeping nights because of the way that deer died."

The third part of the series is a slightly abstracted painting of the deer lying dead, its brown-red blood coloring the snow.

Munro also painted a few portraits, including one of Joe Vogler, the founder of the Alaskan Independence Party, who Munro thinks is the quintessential Alaskan.

"When I think of Joe Vogler, I think of someone who epitomizes Alaska," Munro said. "I think of him sitting on a bulldozer blocking BLM," the federal Bureau of Land Management.

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