First Friday

Jewelry, XtraTuffs, metal, secrets and more

Posted: Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Growing up in Kenai, Juneau oil painter Charity Green quickly developed an admiration for commercial fishermen, from afar. "They're a lot tougher than I am," Green said. "I'm not a tough person, and I respect people that do things that I can't do."

So it was that Green's first solo show, in December 2002 at the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council gallery in a joint exhibition with Douglas multimedia artist Elise Tomlinson, was based around commercial fishing.

That show was such a success that almost 20 people bid to buy "Fishermen's Boots" - a still-life of XtraTuffs - and Green was invited to show more commercial fishing paintings at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum.

"Commercial Fishing," nine new paintings plus "Fishermen's Boots" (borrowed from the private collection of Peter Neyhart), opens from 4:30-7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 2, at the City Museum as part of First Friday.

"I like subjects that deal with work, where people are producing a product," Green said. "And I think that a lot of us are disconnected from the feeling of producing something."

"Commercial Fishing" includes pictures of rock fish, tanner crab, salmon fillets and a portrait of Lt. Gov. Loren Leman in commercial fisherman clothes. Green grew up near the Leman family home. She painted Leman from a photograph.

"I had an idea for that painting eight years ago, before Loren Leman was a household name," Green said. "I wanted to do a painting of one of the many fishermen that work two jobs. He fished every summer, as long as I've known his family. One of my earliest memories is of his dad, down on the beach. He taught me my first Russian word."

• ROCK PAPER SCISSORS: When former Rock Paper Scissors manager Leah Sturgis and her boyfriend, Frank Sullivan, moved from Juneau to the Washington, D.C.-area in late August, they looked around for an area that wasn't too urban or suburban.

They settled on Alexandria, Va.., an enclave of tight-knight neighborhoods about 12 miles south of D.C. on the Potomac River.

"Coming from Juneau, I needed a place with community," Sturgis said.

So far, Alexandria has been just that. Sturgis, a self-taught jeweler, has had more time to work on her art. Sullivan is playing bluegrass in a band for the U.S. Navy.

Sturgis, who moved to Juneau 11 years ago from Chicago, is back in town visiting family and friends. She will display some of her new jewelry at Rock Paper Scissors, 245 Marine Way, this month. The show opens at 4:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 2.

"I would say these new pieces are a little bolder," Sturgis said. "In Juneau I was teaching preschool, running the shop, hanging out with my family and friends and also doing the jewelry. I've had more time to be creative and play with things."

Sturgis has been making jewelry for more than 10 years and selling for almost five. This show includes necklaces (16 to 20 inches) and earrings (petite to grande) with sterling and semi-precious gems that she bought at a recent gem show in the D.C.-area.

"The things that I'm excited to show this time are more abstract, sculpture-esque, wire designs," Sturgis said. "It's a mixture of more conservative pieces to more unusual pieces."

• EMPIRE GALLERY: After 11 years in Columbus, Ohio, painter and sculptor Abe Wylie felt as if he had to escape the Rust Belt, so in late September he moved back to Juneau with his girlfriend, Heide Martin.

"Back" is a relative word, perhaps, since the 23-year-old moved away when he was 6. But his brother, Caleb, is here, as well his father and stepmother. And Wylie has found more time to paint, while saving money from his job in Rainbow Foods' deli kitchen.

Wiley has finished 20 paintings since he graduated from Ohio State in May, and about nine more since he moved to Juneau. He will premiere 20 of his 812 by 14 drawings, a few large pastels on cardboard and four ceramic sculptures in a First Friday opening at the Empire Gallery, 235 Second Street, at 4:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 2.

One week later, 12 more paintings and a sculpture will join the collection in a second opening at 4:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 9. Caleb Wylie will also play guitar. Martin is bringing four of those pieces back from Ohio, including a self-portrait sculpture called "Nature Boy."

Wiley decided he wanted to be an artist two quarters into college. He was accepted into Ohio State's drawing and painting program, but drifted into sculpture and graduated from the Buckeyes' ceramics program in May. He's concentrating on painting now. Wiley's art is filled with abstract, overlapping circular shapes and colors, often merged into figures, body shapes and animals.

"I spent three years making ceramic sculptures as opposed to a year making paintings, and I think I'm a lot better making sculptures," Wiley said. "That's one of the reasons why I'm so gung-ho about painting right now. I think I can grasp three dimensions a lot better than two dimensions."

• JAHC GALLERY: Juneau sculptor Lisa Rickey and pastel artist Barbara Craver both work for the Legislative Affairs Agency, and one day they decided to apply for a joint show.

"She'll take up the wall space, and I'll take up the floor space," said Rickey, of the basic idea.

"Sculpture and Paintings" opens from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council gallery and runs through Jan. 30.

Rickey, a longtime Juneau painter, has been working with metal for the last few years. Most of her sculptures are large - 6 to 12-feet high. She's been working on smaller works to fit into the JAHC gallery.

"I still love to work on pastels and painting, but steel is where I feel right," Rickey said. "Smaller pieces are not really what I do," she said. "I'm trying to force myself to do it. I really get into the large sculptures, where the steel works me sometimes, and I work it."

The smaller pieces can also be time consuming. She's spent six months working on an 18-inch sculpture. It took her three days to complete another work that's seven feet high.

"It's not representational art, it's abstract art," Rickey said. "The steel that I like to use is masculine material, and I can give it feminine qualities and smooth lines. I come up with different forms that please me, and sometimes they don't please me."

Craver, part of the Plein Rein Painters group in town, was recently featured in "Travels to Italy," a June show at JAHC highlighting Plein Rein's fall 2002 group trip to the Umbrian region of Italy.

"When I came from Italy, I tried to look at Juneau as if it were a foreign country," Craver said. "The things that were so wonderful in Italy were little alleyways and little towns and secret places that you could walk to. So I tried to find some of those secret places in Juneau."

You can figure out those "secrets" when you see the paintings. The collection includes various angles of Gold Creek, Evergreen Cemetery and the stair and overpass system that ducks and shortcuts through downtown Juneau. Check out for a preview.

• JUNEAU ARTISTS GALLERY: Alaska Marine Highway marine engineer and watercolor landscape painter Gary Smith is the featured artist for First Friday at the Juneau Artists Gallery, 175 S. Franklin St., in the Senate Building.

Smith is traveling on the new fast ferry Fairweather and was unavailable for comment. He began painting with oils in the 1960s, took a break from art and resumed, this time with watercolors, in the early 1990s. He moved to Juneau from the D.C.-area in 1998.

Smith's mother, Jean Ranney, is a professional artist in the Mid-Atlantic. His grandfather, Glenn Ranney, was a well-known Midwest artist and a professor at the Minneapolis School of Art.

"Since moving to Juneau, the local scenery has inspired me to paint more than ever, and I try to paint or draw something every day," Smith said in a press release.

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