The passion of Soldotna artist Chelline Larsen will be brought to light this month as part of the Kenai Fine Art Center July exhibit.
Larsen’s work is the centerpiece of the July exhibit at the Kenai gallery, which will host an opening reception Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. The normal daily hours of the gallery are 12 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.
The exhibit features a collection of three-dimensional sculptures, acrylic painting, painted and quilted fabric and table art.
Larsen is the full-time owner of Dragonfly Gallery, where she has taught fabric painting for the past 15 years. As a student at Kenai Peninsula College studying art in the early 1990s, Larsen honed the craft of fabric design and painting, which she picked up from her mother and grandmother — both of whom were talented seamstresses and designers.
“Painting silk is one of my main art forms,” Larsen said. “When I was invited to do the show, I thought about using a lot of techniques that have intrigued me for some time.”
Larsen said she has been creating fabric art for about 28 years. She now operates her business, along with husband Adam Hoyt, out of the home she grew up in. Larsen said the house has been in her family since the mid-1950s.
Fine Art Vice President Marion Nelson said she wished to see Larsen and Hoyt work together to form the art in the exhibit.
Hoyt is originally from Newport, New Hampshire, and found his way to Alaska in 1993 to work at Centennial and Swiftwater parks in Soldotna. Like Larsen, Hoyt is an outdoors enthusiast and currently works at the Kenai Peninsula Borough as the lead water operator, along with his work at the Dragonfly Gallery.
It’s that line of work that has gotten Hoyt involved with Larsen’s art, as he has helped bring to life Larsen’s designs in several pieces of the July gallery. Larsen said she has formulated the artistic designs seen in the handful of tables and benches throughout the exhibit, and Hoyt has brought them into reality with a plasma cutter.
“Just absolutely marvelous,” said Nelson. “It is so classy.”
The tool incorporates Computer Numerical Control (CNC) programming to delicately inject a stream of hot plasma through an electrically conductive material like steel.
Over the past nine months, Larsen said she has visualized and pieced together elements of the show to showcase her passion for the outdoors and for the forests.
“I spent (this past) winter exploring different things that weren’t my M.O.,” Larsen said. “People know me for my silk painting, but I wanted to expand. The main inspiration that I have comes from a really deep fascination of the forest and the trees.”
Born in Seward but raised mostly in Soldotna, Larsen spent countless hours of her childhood playing in the woods around her house, and fostered a deep connection with the flora and other organisms that bring a forest to life.
“Ever since I was a child, I’ve played in the woods,” she explained. “All the time, in Soldotna living in that house, the forest was all around. I actually grew up connected to the forest because it was my playground. It’s where a lot of that comes from. It’s kind of difficult to explain but I’ve always had this affinity with the trees.”
Larsen explained that reading “The Hidden Life of Trees” by Peter Wohlleben helped fuel her passion for her style of art and gave her new ideas to incorporate into her work. Wohlleben is a German forester who explains in his book that forests are essentially a community of living organisms who communicate with one another and which even help keep others flourishing.
Wohlleben even has a folksy name for the community of forests — the Woodwide Web — and it’s part of what has made Larsen interested in nature to begin with.
The 3D pieces and the fabrics and quilted art displays together form a can’t-miss exhibit that Larsen hopes will be enjoyed by all.
“She’s a great artist, and July is a great month to be a great artist,” Nelson said.