In the Kenai Fine Arts Center gallery, a classical oil painting rests near a rust-colored fabric collage. A small necklace made from a fiber material sits across from a large alabaster sculpture. A finely detailed puma drawn with white and color ink on a dark black background hangs on one end of the room. On the other end, a stainless steel sculpture nestles in the corner.
This year’s Biennial Juried Exhibit is not short of variety, or creativity.
Launched with a reception on March 1, the show features diverse styles and mediums, including fiber, watercolor, collage, canvas, textural wood, acrylic, oil painting and photographs.
The juried show alternates annually with a judged show, in which all pieces entered into the show are judged. Only about half the entries in the juried show were chosen for display and judging, Marion Nelson, vice president of the board for the Kenai Fine Arts Center, said.
Judge Mariano Gonzales, a professor of art at the University of Alaska Anchorage, traveled to Kenai to judge the show and select five juror’s choice pieces. In a departure from past years, in which the top winners have been ranked, Gonzales chose five equally ranked winners.
During the reception, Gonzales spoke of the pieces that were both accepted and not chosen for jury selection at the show, Nelson said.
Choosing pieces for the show aren’t just about the individual quality of each piece, but about creating a cohesive show for the public, Nelson said.
Artists featured in the show come from a variety of backgrounds — from professionals and hobbyists to art instructors and craftsmen.
Jason Ramirez, an employee at Odie’s Deli in Soldotna, received a juror’s choice award for his piece, “The favorite,” an acrylic painting revealing the inside layers of a sliced sandwich.
Another juror’s choice piece, a wall-sized canvas piece by Anna Widman called “debris line #1” uses earth tones and texture to create a rich landscape. Abigail’s Ulen’s acrylic painting, “Harbor Life,” makes use of paper and ink lettering to put a new twist on a traditional Alaska scenescape.
Juror’s choice pieces also transcended paint and canvas. Gonalez honored “Songbird House,” a vintage glass birdhouse with a copper frame created by Linda Vizenor.
Two of Nelson’s encaustic pieces were featured in the show, with one, dubbed “The Circus Came to Town,” selected as a juror’s choice.
Nelson said she created her pieces, which are made with hot beeswax, resin from a pine tree and pigment, by scraping down and building up material until she achieves just the right texture and shapes. When creating encaustic pieces, she uses a heat gun and torch to fuse the materials every few layers, and occasionally melts down the whole work and start over.
“That’s where I end up with a more successful piece. It’s responding to what I’ve already done, improving it, changing it,” Nelson said. “And ending up with something that has involved a lot of work, a lot of judgment calls, on the way to what is done.”
Beyond showing off pieces by juror’s choice awardees, the show features work by artists using a diverse range of mediums and techniques, including pottery, mixed wood, watercolors, fiber, collage, canvas, acrylic, oil painting and photographs.
Shannon Olds, a member of the Kenai Potters Guild, entered a ceramic sculpture she has dubbed the “Radical Rainbow Raven.” The piece, which is ensconced in a loose bed of porcelain flowers, took Olds about two months to create. She crafted the raven’s body out of a stoneware, and then applied layers of fine porcelain and paint to the bird’s feathers. Olds said she used the cold finish, instead of the more typical fired finish, in order to preserve the bright hues of purple, pink, green, and orange against the raven’s deep black feathers. The result is, indeed, a rainbow raven.