For the November and December exhibit at the Kenai Fine Art Center, local artists came together for a unique mural project — one that wraps around the entire gallery.
“Gather: A Creative Challenge” is the name of the mural, currently on display at the Fine Art Center’s gallery in Old Town Kenai. Eleven peninsula artists collaborated on the project, and each were given two or three spaces on the wall to use and only five days to paint. The paintings are on a temporary Tyvek canvas, rather than the actual walls of the building, so that the artists can take their work home when the exhibit is over.
The subject matter and techniques that can be seen are as varied as the artists themselves: on one side is a large portrait of a gorilla, while on the other there is a view of the Vancouver skyline. In between there are flowers, an underwater scene, and various abstract designs, and many of the segments blend into each other as they wrap around the room.
Jason Ramirez was busy finishing up his segment last Saturday: a large, zoomed-in image of a sandwich he had crafted while working his day job at Odie’s Deli in Soldotna. Ramirez has been an artist for most of his life, but mostly focused on sculpture work until about three years when he discovered a passion for painting.
Ramirez said that the subjects of his paintings tend to be real-life objects, and he has won awards in the past for his sandwiches — the painted ones, at least. Ramirez noted that crafting the real sandwiches is also a form of artistic expression for him.
“Coming into the project I was like, ‘I’m not gonna paint a giant sandwich. What kind of fool is going to throw a sandwich on the mural?’” Ramirez said.
As the artists were spitballing their ideas, Ramirez decided to go for it.
Meanwhile, a few panels over, Tasha Skolnick was recreating a photo she captured while walking through Vancouver in the fall: a scene of a red-leaved tree adjacent to a bright yellow building.
Skolnick said she was a little intimidated at first, wondering if her mural would fit with everyone else’s or if she’ll accidentally go into someone else’s panel while working. Throughout the process, which Skolnick described as an “artistic jam session,” the artists offered each other guidance and tips while comparing styles in a way that alleviated Skolnick’s apprehension.
“Most of us have been here a long time, and it’s really neat to be able to get into a community project where you meet people that you don’t normally see in everyday life,” Skolnick said.
Rachel Grossl, a board member for the Peninsula Art Guild, was doing something a little different with her section of the mural: Grossl had painted a dragon that weaves in and out of several panels and stretches across other artists’ sections.
Grossl said that she was inspired by her sister, who had a dragon painted on her bedroom wall back when they were teenagers. Grossl doesn’t consider painting her primary medium, but said that she enjoyed stepping out of her comfort zone for the sake of working with other artists.
“Honestly, I’ve just sat back in awe at watching all the different techniques. For me, being around all the other artists is what’s so cool about it,” Grossl said. “I’m in exalted company.”