“Sites Unseen” is the latest art exhibition to be featured at the Kenai Art Center. The show is a collaboration between husband and wife Graham Dane and Linda Infante Lyons, presenting their different art styles first separately, then together in a shared piece.
Works by Dane and Lyons are featured on opposite sides of the room. Dane’s work occupies the left side, with bright colors and abstract designs. Lyons’ is on the right, with much more subdued colors that depict landscapes, animals and people.
“Even though we paint in very different ways, we’re both very interested in the same thing,” Dane said.
Dane described how when creating an art exhibition, especially one that combines multiple artists, there is a desire to establish a theme or connection between the pieces. He and Lyons have always liked the way their works play against one another, he said.
Despite painting in different styles, Lyons said that they share a similar sensibility when it comes to color. “We both try to push our color as far as we can,” she said. “We can spend hours and hours talking about color.”
Both artists discussed how art is, for them, a spiritual experience. They pursue art to understand the world. “One of the questions I’ve always asked myself is how do you make the unseen seen and the unknown known? In some ways, for us, painting is very much an act of faith,” Dane said.
The two artist’s work is separated in the exhibit to preserve their unique language, Lyons said. “We think it’s really important to understand the language of one particular artist.” According to Lyons, if the works were interspersed together, it would be difficult to establish or maintain the thread.
On the back wall of the studio, where one side meets the other, a work is presented that was produced in collaboration between the two artists. Half is very distinctly Dane, half is very distinctly Lyons. The result is an interesting fusion of the two styles, not blending, but standing together side by side.
Lyons referred to this piece as the bridge, where both of the artists are speaking.
The combined painting began as an exchange between Lyons and Dane when they were married. Dane said that rather than trading rings, they each painted a 6-inch square and traded them. They eventually put them together on a frame that hung in Lyons studio for years.
Dane said they’ve shown the piece a few times over the years and chose it for this show because it felt like a good fit. “It’s definitely the most personal piece of work that I think we’ve ever produced together,” he said. “It’s a visual commitment to each other.”
Another eye-catching element of the exhibit are three portraits of young Native Alaskan women, painted by Lyons with halos evocative of Christian imagery. Lyons said these portraits were part of a project she worked on called “Decolonizing Alaska,” which was curated by Asia Freeman at the Bunnell Street Arts Center in Homer.
The basis of the project was elevating Alaska Native culture as equal to Western religion in reverence and respect, which Lyons did by painting images of Alaska Native people while using Christian imagery. “I would like to be understood as embracing the reality of both cultures,” she said. “Lifting up the Indigenous side, which has been so repressed and denigrated for so many years.” The three portraits on display in “Sites Unseen” are inspired by a young woman Lyons met in Shaktoolik.
An opening reception will be held for the show on Aug. 4 from 5-7 p.m. The event will be open to the public and refreshments will be offered. Lyons will not be able to attend, but Dane hopes to be present at the Art Center.
Alex Rydlinski, executive director at the Kenai Art Center, said that if Dane cannot attend in person, a Zoom option may also be pursued for guests to ask questions of the artist. The exhibition will be available for viewing from 12-5 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday until Aug. 27.