Walk this way

Galleries open Friday night for monthly art walk through town

Posted: Thursday, November 06, 2003

Ice breakup, the way that different surfaces work together and collide, is a metaphor for personal development and change. So argues Anchorage art professor Kat Tomka in her new room-sized installation, "breakup III," opening as part of First Friday from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7, at the Alaska State Museum and running through Jan. 10.

Tomka and Fort Yukon artist Sarah Beaty are among six of the visual artists chosen from a field of 55 in June 2002 to have solo shows in the museum's limited space.

Beaty's untitled exhibit features tall, hollow sculptures in a ceramic collection inspired by people and landscapes.

The seven pieces in her exhibit are as tall as seven feet. Each piece consists of closed forms, stacked in columns and decorated with high-fired glazes.

"I started making these forms individually to start exploring specific firing processes," said Beaty, a former University of Alaska Southeast professor now living in Fort Yukon, in a press release. "The forms are really engaging to build. I was testing certain surface treatments and it just turned out really beautifully."

Tomka's show combines tape, light, water and video projections in a hanging, 16-paneled multi-media amalgamation that symbolizes the spring ice thaw. The tape is painted in graphite to suggest texture and wear.

"I was looking at breakup as the different attitudes in ice," Tomka said. "Some seem to flow together. Some seem to act as a force acting against one another. The result eventually will be the transformation. I was thinking about how we move through our lives and work through things. I was making analogies."

"breakup III" is the third version of the installation. "breakup I" was shown in early 2003 at the International Gallery of Contemporary Art in Anchorage, and "breakup II" was shown this summer at the Chidlaw Gallery, Art Academy of Cincinnati. "breakup IV" will star at the Yukon Centre for the Arts in Whitehorse, Canada, next March.

Tomka also will host a free youth workshop, "Creating Sculpture With Tape," on Saturday, Nov. 8, from 10 a.m. to noon for third- through eighth-graders and from 1 to 3 p.m. for sixth- through 12th-graders. To register, call 465-2901.

The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is $3. Youth 18 and younger are admitted free.

Light dancing, down by the dock

Michael Francis Kelly bought his first digital camera four years ago. That same day, he went down to the dock by Marine Wharf to see what he could shoot.

"At first I shot abstracts," said Kelly, an assistant computer programmer for the state and a Juneau resident since 1993. "I was fascinated by the reflections on the hulls of the ships."

One day, he noticed the reflections of downtown buildings and the downtown library in the water. The conditions were perfect. The combination of clear sky, bright sunshine and winter light was producing a strong reflection. No cruise ships were in port and the harbor was unblocked. The tide was high and the water was close enough to the dock for a good shot. And the water was rippling, distorting images into abstraction.

"You'd think that if you looked at the same building or the same objects onshore, you'd get the same reflections," Kelly said. "But that's not true at all. There are many shots, even in this show, that are the same spot. But they have an entirely different image."

A collection of Kelly's work - "Dancing Light: Simply reflections, of life on shore" - opens from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7, at the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council gallery, 206 North Franklin St., as part of First Friday. The show runs through Nov. 28.

It's taken Kelly almost four years to shoot all the images straight off the dock. His ideal conditions usually occur just two or three times a winter. This October, he had three perfect days. Most of the pictures are of five-square-foot plots of water between the downtown library and the transient-vessel dock. Some of the images have been digitally enhanced for brightness and contrast.

"It's a lot of fun to see what you're going to get," Kelly said. "People look at these and they think there has to be oil in the water or something."

Kelly uses a high shutter speed to stop the motion of the water. He needs as much as light as possible because the reflections aren't very strong. He leaves the camera as open as possible, which often causes the depth of field to be reduced.

"I don't pick images that are easily recognizable," Kelly said. "I let people ask me, 'Now what is that?' and I'll tell them. But I like to keep it kind of secret and let them use their imagination to figure it out."

Gicleé: Kelley's new way to print

Juneau freelance photographer Mark Kelley has been shooting color slides for magazines, books and calendars for 25 years, and until last year, one thing had remained the same.

He'd never made a satisfactory print.

"It would never seem as sharp as my slide," said Kelley, a Juneau Empire photographer from 1979 to 1993. "It never had the luminosity of my slide. Your eye sees a full range of light lights to dark darks, and with a slide your ability is compressed. When you print, the tonal range shrinks more. There's way more contrast built up, and it doesn't look anything like my slide."

That changed last year, when Kelley discovered Atelier Alaska Inc., a Juneau digital printing company run by Dave Riccio and Ken Melville. The company makes Gicleé (ghee-clay) art prints with archival-quality inks. Kelley will display 16 of his new prints - nature, widlife and scenery - at Annie Kaill's this month. The show opens from 4:30-7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7.

"With this new technology you can make a stunning print," Kelley said. "I've waited 25 years, and I wasn't going to do it until I could do it right."

Atelier is willing to print small runs, as opposed to cost-prohibitive runs of 300 to 500 copies. Kelley, a perfectionist in some ways, is able to sit at Atelier and nurse his shots through the printing process. It's a big change from Kelley's dodge-and-burn darkroom past, where he'd take copious notes on each photo but still have difficulty repeating the process.

"These Gicleé prints are supposed to be very permanent," he said. "What was important to me was that it looked as good or better than the original. All this technology has been evolving for the last five years, and it's become quite easy to do."

Kelley's show will include 16 pieces, including two to four 20-by-30-inch prints.

Also at Annie Kaill's, Girdwood artist Barbara Lavallee will visit from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 9, for a book signing of her latest children's book, "Groucho's Eyebrows." The book is targeted toward 4- to 8-year-olds and stars a cat. Her print art will be on display.

Four carloads, one fishing wire 'Weave'

It took four carloads for 17-year-old Juneau-Douglas High School senior Sarah Elliott to move all of her personal belongings - everything but her bed, her dresser and her bookcase - to the Empire Gallery, 235 Second St.

Now comes the hard part: Weaving all of her worldly possessions into a floor-to-ceiling art installation made out of fishing wire.

When complete, "Weave" will be the centerpiece of her first solo show, "New and Used Works by Sarah Elliott," opening at 4:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7, at the Empire Gallery as part of First Friday.

"This is how I represent myself in the material world and these are things that I choose," Elliott said of "Weave." "And a lot of hauling all my stuff down there has been getting rid of a lot of stuff. It's being able to step back and take a look at it. And I'm hoping people will have the same question: How do I represent myself and what things do I have that I don't want and I don't need?"

"Weave" is one of two installations in "New and Used."

The show also will include several video performances, a few mixed-media pieces, Polaroids, paintings and pastels.

One film, "Inconsistent Distraction and the Product of Realism in the Post-Post Anti-Anti Modern World, Part 1, Relationships and Residue," chronicles Elliott breaking light bulbs with various tools.

"One of the themes of this show is communicating basic human instincts and needs and fears and desires to be loved," Elliott said. "I asked myself what it is that I want to be communicating with my art, and what do I want to do with my art. I came to the basic conclusion that I want to communicate with people of all sorts and not just people in the art world."

Elliott developed a smaller version of "Weave" this summer, when she attended The School of the Art Institute of Chicago's Early College Program.

She took a conceptually-based course, "Advanced Projects, 2D, 3D and 4D," and built the installation out of everything in her dorm room.

"Chicago really changed the way I thought about art," Elliott said. "I hadn't had a lot of schooling before. I'd been instructed on a purely aesthetic and technical level and had not really had very much experience in any of the art movements."

• Korry Keeker can be reached at korry.keeker@juneauempire.com.

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