A Fairbanks farmer nicknamed Reindeer George caught Kenai Art Center Executive Director Alex Rydlinski’s attention years ago after a mutual friend introduced them.
Rydlinski, who was living in Texas at the time, saw art in Reindeer George’s lifestyle from afar, and eventually decided to put it on canvas.
“It’s just amazing. It’s such a cool way of life,” Rydlinski said.
His exhibit, called “Reindeer Man,” is up for display this month at the Kenai Art Center. There will be a reception on Thursday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. to view Rydlinski’s work illustrating the reindeer life cycle from birth to slaughter. There will also be a joint artist panel at 7 p.m. on Sept. 7, featuring Rydlinski and Reindeer George.
The exhibit includes multiple oil paintings, etched prints and antlers. In his recent showcase in Fairbanks, Rydlinski even had a full-sized taxidermy reindeer in the middle of the showroom.
Rydlinski said he wanted to emphasize the human aspect of the work, featuring Reindeer George, who is responsible for the daily manual labor that powers the farm. He also didn’t want the series of paintings to be too infantile or cute, he said. Instead, he wanted to explore the reality of both animal life and death.
“I didn’t want it to be a nice, safe show with not a lot at stake,” Rydlinski said.
The first time he went to visit the farm for art inspiration, he said he went to Reindeer George’s slaughterhouse. Rydlinski said that was what he needed to give his series the perspective he wanted.
“Reindeer Man” will be showcased throughout the month of September. Those attending the opening night reception will be asked to wear masks.
The show is taking the place of the Kenai Art Center’s annual Harvest Auction and dinner fundraiser, which was canceled because of the growing concern of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s a pretty sad loss,” Rydlinski said.
Rydlinski said the art center will track the virus to determine whether or not the center can have the fundraiser later in the year, but as of now they’re not sure when it will happen.