Lavallee's Whimsical Alaska

Posted: Thursday, August 12, 2010

Anchorage artist Barbara Lavallee paints idyllic images of rural Alaska life. Native women dressed in brightly colored kuspuks, or undressed in hot tubs on snowy nights, are just some of her depictions that have become synonymous with the 49th state.

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"Wellness for All" is a new print by Barbara Lavallee.

Lavallee, known well for her award-winning illustration of "Mama, Do you Love Me?" will be at Frames & Things in Soldotna's Blazy Mall on Friday from 3 to 6:30 p.m. to show-off a few of her latest watercolor paintings.

Brian Erwin, manager of Frames & Things, said Lavallee comes to the art store every August to sign prints and visit with the community.

"She's just really generous with her time," he said. Lavallee has been visiting the Soldotna gallery for several years now, he said.

Lavallee said her Soldotna visit has become a tradition for her, and among the people that spend summers on the Kenai Peninsula. She signs prints, doodles on the annually published calendars of her work, and chats with residents.

"People come in and buy their calendars every year and buy their Christmas presents and whatever," she said. "For me, it's very important to get out to some of the outlying communities and it gives me a chance to get out of town."

She will have a few of her new prints for sale on Friday are part of a project she is working on for the hospital in Seward.

Lavallee said the hospital staff are remodeling the clinic in Seward to make it "friendlier, warmer, and more fun."

She said her print, "Social Climbers" depicting naked women entwined in vines, will be the border of the mammogram room.

"I've had a number of men tell me they want to look at the women in the rooms too," she said.

Another print, "Cat Dreams," of fat cats sleeping with mice and fish around them, will be the border in the pediatric care part of the hospital.

Her other print "Wellness for All" shows a doctor's office scene which will be painted, mural-like, on a wall in the lobby. The painting is named after the hospital's new effort to get the community more involved in wellness, she said.

Lavallee has also illustrated a new book, "The Sourdough Man: An Alaskan Folk Tale," which will also be available at Friday's event. The children's book, written by Chrie Stihler, is a decidedly Alaskan take on the runaway gingerbread man story.

Refreshments and door prizes will be available at the free event

Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at

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