With the snow's departure and the prospect of summer ahead, the subject of fish is on the minds of many. That subject also is the topic of the summer-long exhibit at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center in Kenai.
The new exhibit, 2001: A Fish Odyssey, will be on display through Sept. 4. The grand opening was held Friday, with more than 700 artists and residents from around the state in attendance. Kathy Tarr, executive director of the center, said the event was the biggest held at the center.
The installation of the show also proved to be quite a project.
"This was the most challenging art exhibit we have hung here," she said, adding that more than 800 square feet of floor space was dedicated to the 114 pieces in the show.
Art, dealing with the topic of fish, is hung in about every area of the center.
Gary Freeburg, curator of the exhibit, said in his statement, that "the focus of the artist's problem was to create works of art that identified the spirit, life, context and or power of fish and to express or stress the importance of the aquatic creature in the artist's life, culture and thinking."
"Twist and Trout," by Ray Troll
Freeburg said he looked for artists that would delve into the subject and present a deeper look at the issue of fish.
"I wanted a story, I wanted a message," he said.
One look at the work in the show will prove how important the creatures are to the artists, as each presents a different view of what the idea of fish means to them.
The exhibit features a wide array of media, including clay, fiber, photography, stained glass, various types of paintings and more.
"The Run," by Letitia Hutchings
"Some of it is pretty unique," Freeburg said.
"Fish woman," by Sheila Wyne of Anchorage, is a wall-mounted assemblage of found objects. The piece itself invokes a sense of mystery and danger that is highlighted by the lighting used in the framed area where the piece is hung.
"It is an impressive piece," Freeburg said.
Another impressive work is "Still Life with Choices," by Celia Carl Anderson, of Soldotna. The acrylic painting makes viewers feel as though they are inside a fish bowl as the salmon swim around them. The use of bright colors makes the work a truly interesting piece.
Fish Woman by Sheila Wyne
Freeburg said the show should open up viewers' mind about the meaning of fish rather than just as a source of food or as a recreational activity.
"I think the interesting thing about (the show) is that people that come into the exhibition already have an idea of how fish relate to them. I think that what's going to happen when they leave this exhibition is that they are going to be thinking about it in a little different way. Certainly, it has happened to me."
The exhibit features art with many different aspects, including humor and spirituality, and some pieces deal with social, political and religious aspects.
"I think that if people get a little beneath the surface of the (art) that they might find something else there that is mysterious, they might find something else that is magical. Hopefully when they walk out they will be a little bit more in tune with this place," Freeburg said. "I think people coming from not only the Kenai area but certainly the tourists coming in from Outside this summer will definitely go away with something new and interesting."
Freeburg said he also believes viewing the art takes more time than just a passing glance.
"When most people look at art, they don't spend enough time with it," he said.
Freeburg stressed the importance of looking beneath the surface and taking the time to see the full idea of what the artist is trying to convey. Time spent trying to understand the art may lead to answers to questions about the subject.
"Appreciation of art really comes through understanding art, " he said, adding that appreciation for the art, regardless of whether viewers like it, will effect their lives in some way.
Freeburg also said for artists, seeing the work of others can stimulate their own ideas.
"I take a look at what is going on here and I get tremendously stimulated, and all I want to do is run back to my studio and begin to work. I've got ideas from other artists and these ideas get me so excited that I can hardly stand it," he said. "That is the purpose of art. There is nothing more satisfying."
The exhibit will run through Sept. 4. General admission to the show is $3 for adults, and all students are free. The center will be open this Sunday for Mother's Day, and admission is free for everyone.
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