First Friday: Quilts, Tongass, marabou coho and Cajun picture boxes

Posted: Thursday, September 02, 2004

Four years ago, Petersburg artist Susan Christensen was content as a painter. She worked on large canvases, and occasionally glued pieces of clothing into her work or added stitching in the middle of a piece.

Ultimately, she wondered if she could make a painting by sewing. She took a quilting class, and she hasn't gone back to pure painting since.

"Now I bring acrylics into my quilts, as a way of adding to the content," Christensen said. "It's been a fascinating journey, and I'm not even scratching the surface of this stuff."

Christensen, who attended high school in Juneau, will show a collection of her pictorial quilts in a joint show with Juneau photographer Noelle Dersé during September at the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council gallery. The exhibition opens at 4:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 3, as part of this month's First Friday art walk.

Dersé, known in Juneau for her photo emulsion prints, has begun experimenting with three-dimensional photo boxes - pictures wrapped around a wooden structure.

She makes the boxes and will have between 20 and 30 at the show. They hang on the wall and measure between 8-by-8 and 10-by-10 inches. Some of the photos are covered with textured acrylic coatings that show brushstrokes and fingerprints.

"The boxes are a way for me to branch into something more three-dimensional and interactive," Dersé said. "The idea is that you take a regular photo, and then as you approach the box, you can see the photograph from several different sides."

The boxes will include photos from Turkey, New Orleans and all around Alaska. A shot of Sandy Beach was hand-colored before it was enlarged. Another box includes a medieval mosaic of Jesus.

"A lot of the original pictures are from the emulsions, and I just enlarged them," Dersé said. "Because they were emulsion pictures, or hand-colored, they have the unusual color or texture of the emulsion print. Some are from straight photos, and those are more vibrant."

"Looking at her images and mine, I think the language will fit really nicely," Christensen said. "Her work seems nostalgic to me. I think it's going to hang very well together."

Christensen's pictorial quilts use what she calls "recognizable objects in symbolic context." One of the pieces deals with fetal alcohol syndrome. It includes a black and white representation of a pistol, a border of appliquéd bottles and a baby's T-shirt with a target quilted over the top.

"It kind of bludgeons you," Christensen said. "Fetal alcohol syndrome is a real grim topic, and it's important for me to talk about it because of the prevalence of it in Alaska. In my town here, the effects are everywhere."

"I'm interested in relationships with family members and relationships between spiritual entities and people, and I'm interested in telling stories with my work," she said. "I'm also interested in color, and I think that's reflected in my work to a great extent."

Other First Friday offerings:

• EMPIRE GALLERY: The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Wilderness Act of 1964 with "Tongass Roots," an exhibit featuring some of the wild places of the Tongass National Forest.

About 20 local artists and photographers will show works, including Richard Carstensen, Sunny Chandler, Kate Corbin, Barbara Craver, Buddy Ferguson, Jim Fowler, Shar Fox, Liz Gifford, Ken Gill, Skip Gray, Gene Harrison, Kathy Hocker, John Hyde, David Job, Mark Kelley, Barbara Kelly, Iris Korhonen, Jim Skannes, Roxanne Turner and Paula Wright.

The show runs from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 3, at the Empire Gallery, with a "Toast to Wild Alaska" at 5:30 p.m. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Wilderness Act 40 years ago to the date - Sept. 3, 1964.

"This show is a great chance to celebrate wild Southeast Alaska - both the areas that have been granted wilderness protection by Congress, and all of the other amazing bays, mountains, fjords, and islands on the Tongass," said SEACC show organizer Sarah Lemagie in a news release. "It's been fun to give Juneau's incredibly talented artists the chance to get together and say something about what our backyard lands and wildlife mean to us."

"Tongass Roots" will also offer a glimpse of photographs from "Tongass Roots: At Home in Alaska's Island Rainforest," a new SEACC publication. The book profiles Southeast Alaska residents who depend on the Tongass.

"There are so many things that we do here - hiking trails under huge spruce, catching world-class king salmon, watching humpback whales lunge out of the water - that are possible only because of the incredible land that surrounds us," Lemagie said. "Years ago, Admiralty Island was slated to be logged for a pulp mill in Berners Bay. Today, Admiralty is a cash cow for Juneau's businesses and a favorite for deer and bear hunting. Safeguarding lands, and thus our uses of them, is one way we can make sure our grandchildren will be able to benefit from these places."

For more information about Tongass wilderness areas, visit:

• FRIENDLY PLANET LOFT: University of Alaska Southeast student Daniel Buck's first solo show will include approximately 15 photographs of Southeast Alaska that he's taken in the last six months.

He captured one of his pictures, a view of the early morning moon in Auke Bay, by chance.

"I didn't really wait that long," Buck said. "I happened to be out one morning waiting for the sunrise, and I happened to be driving through Auke Bay. The light is so blue. I got a few shots before the clouds moved in."

The opening runs from 4:30-7:30 p.m. Friday at Friendly Planet, 200 Seward St. Buck will also have prints and handmade notecards for sale. You can find more examples of his work at

"I look for things that people haven't done before; things that capture the essence of Juneau and Southeast Alaska," Buck said.

Buck, 21, has been photographing for five years. He moved to Juneau in 2001 and enrolled in biology, which he hopes will give him a better appreciation of the natural world. He plans to pursue a career in nature and wildlife photography.

"I've learned a lot about ecology and animal interactions, and how everything in nature is interconnected," Buck said. "It's been really helpful in finding subjects and knowing where to look for things."

Buck spent a few days this summer kayaking with Juneau photographer John Hyde near Tracy Arm and Endicott Arm.

"I learned a lot about the business end of what it's like to be a wildlife and nature photographer and some basic techniques that I never knew before," Buck said.

• ANNIE KAILL'S: Juneau jeweler Colleen Goldrich is back at Annie Kaill's, 244 Front St., for her third show since September 2003.

Her latest necklaces, bracelets and earrings include unorthodox fall color combinations and shapes inspired by what she's seen at pearl and gem shows.

"I have some pretty unusual work compared to what I've done before, and it's changing as I go along," Goldrich said. "The ranges of colors and shapes that you can get in pearls is pretty incredible right now. And then I like to mix that with small, little gemstones. You wouldn't find the typical white pearl necklace."

Hannah Goldrich, a well-known metalsmith in the Pacific Northwest and Colleen's mother-in-law, is not able to attend the opening. But she is sending about 15 new pieces of silver, gemstone and pearl-work. Last April, Hannah had a 50-year retrospective show in Eugene, Ore.

"It's fun to get a little of her stuff," Colleen said. "She's just really a master at it."

• JUNEAU ARTISTS GALLERY: Juneau watercolor artist Mark Vinsel will show a collection of new and older works, as the featured artist at the Juneau Artists Gallery, 175 S. Franklin St. in the Senate Building, during September.

Vinsel, the executive director of United Fishermen of Alaska, has a Web site with some of his art:

His new works include:

• a 14-by-21-inch view of Mendenhall Valley fireweed, done on site in August

• Gicleé prints of a view of Tracy Arm, Sawyer glacier

• A premiere of works combining watercolor fishing scenes with tied flies. (Dolly Varden fishing in North Douglas with a pink salmon bucktail fly. Mendenhall Bar coho season with a marabou coho fly.)

• ROCK PAPER SCISSORS: Rock Paper Scissors will feature co-owner Leah Sturgis' new line of jewelry. Now based in Alexandria, Va., Sturgis continues to supply the shop with her work from afar. This latest batch features many one-of-a-kind, higher-end necklaces, as well as simpler, more affordable pieces.

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