Artwork by Kim McNett is displayed at the Kenai Art Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Artwork by Kim McNett is displayed at the Kenai Art Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Recreating the magic of ‘infinitely complex’ nature

Art show celebrates bogs and wetlands

“Fantastic Fens,” an exhibition in the Kenai Art Center’s rear gallery this month, represents an effort to increase awareness of the unique ecosystems present in wetlands, where deep peat holds cool water that contributes to the watershed and the whole ecosystem.

Artist Kim McNett said Thursday that she has a biology background and a naturalist interest. She said that nature is “infinitely complex” and that her work balances both a scientific sensibility and a more fantastical view of “the magic that I see.”

Some pieces in the show evoke comparison to scientific diagrams, cross sections of earth rendered in bright color drawings. McNett says she has a background in nature journaling, and that local habitats play host to a “galaxy of life” perhaps too easily overlooked. Her art provides a look below the surface.

Sharing that look is as much about sharing perspective as it is educating, McNett said. As climate change continues to impact the earth, peat bogs play an oversized role in storing carbon.

Peatlands represent around 4% of the Earth’s surface, she said, but store twice the carbon of all the forests combined. That makes them a top conservation priority.

Peat accumulates over thousands of years, she said, and increased awareness of the value of wetlands is important to preserve the Kenai Peninsula as a vibrant place.

Wetlands aren’t poor real estate, she said. They’re incredible assets.

Some of the work in the show originated as part of the Homer Drawdown: Peatland Project, McNett said. That was a community effort to map and advocate for wetlands.

People with a sense of the hardship facing the biosphere, McNett said, want to do something. Individual action can feel “so small.” In education, she said she hopes she can help to inform the actions of others. Not everyone can visit and learn the peatlands directly as she did, but she can depict those lessons in her art.

“We can’t love what we don’t know about — or even understand.”

The other side of McNett’s work in the show are pieces that take a different approach. Where science and realism inform some of her work, she said these move from knowing to imagining.

A collection of three paintings depict this “loosened” approach. In one, a mushroom towers up over a small rodent. In another a dragonfly overlooks a swimming frog. McNett said she hopes to continue exploring this work in the future, finding mood and expressing feeling.

The two expressions of nature are not so separated, McNett said. She’s interested in “merging logic and creativity.” In nature journaling she’s learned to observe her surroundings and use quantification to capture moments; now she’s having fun taking liberty and flourishing creatively. That doesn’t mean stepping away from understanding.

An opening reception will be held for the exhibition at the Kenai Art Center on Friday night, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. There will be live music, refreshments, and McNett will deliver a brief artist’s talk and take questions from attendees.

The show will be available for viewing during gallery hours through June 28.

For more information about McNett’s show or other upcoming exhibitions, visit kenaiartcenter.com or find “Kenai Art Center” on Facebook.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

Artwork by Kim McNett is displayed at the Kenai Art Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Artwork by Kim McNett is displayed at the Kenai Art Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Artwork by Kim McNett is displayed at the Kenai Art Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Artwork by Kim McNett is displayed at the Kenai Art Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

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