Artist transforms past journeys into current art

Posted: Thursday, September 11, 2003

A new art show at Kenai Peninsula College challenges visitors to use their eyes, minds and memories when viewing it.

The mixed media show, by Paula Dickey of Homer, gives viewers several three-dimensional, colorful and tactile pieces to look at, as well as a question to ponder what is more real, a journey that a person takes, or the memories that they form from that journey?

That question is the inspiration, as well as the title, for Dickey's show "The Journey or the Memory."

"I'm interested in the maps of the mind, and I'm interested in the reality of memory and does memory really embellish what your journey is," she said. "... When you think about it, do you make more of this journey and does it become a bigger and bigger entity in your life?"

The pieces in Dickey's show are literally embellishments of her memories.

"This is my only way of giving my memories a spirit," she said.

Each piece takes its meaning from some journey she has experienced in life.

"Trails," for instance, consists of several squares of maps that Dickey painted with watercolor shades and acrylic white highlights. Each map is of a trail that Dickey has been on, including Bird Ridge between Girdwood and Anchorage and trails around Grewink Glacier across Kach-emak Bay from Homer.


"Red Tide" by Paula Dickey is a mixed media piece made of tide table pages shown above.

Dickey has been in Alaska since 1971. She has an art degree from Lawrence University in Wisconsin and a master's degree from Alaska Pacific University. She was the head of the art program at Alaska Pacific University for eight years, has taught at the Kachemak Bay campus of Kenai Peninsula College for seven years and has been an artist in residence at both Redoubt and Mountain View elementary schools.

Since she has spent so much time in this area, many of the journeys she illustrates in her pieces will seem familiar to area residents, like the maps in "Trails" and her depiction of Mount Redoubt. Other depictions of journeys are more general and common to the human experience. "Wings," which includes painted maps of Alaska and a butterfly, is an example of this.

"For me it was a way of portraying flight that goes beyond this earth into the unknown," she said. "It's a difficult subject to tackle, but for me it was the flight beyond the mountains that we are encompassed by."

All of the pieces in the show are made in a similar fashion. They include some kind of graphic element on paper, like maps, tide table pages or text, which are then embellished with watercolor painting, ink work and airbrushed acrylic white lines. These papers are incorporated into geometric assemblages, many of which are mounted on armatures that Dickey's husband, Brad, made for her.

"I like to put images next to each other that perhaps you would not normally juxtapose, like text and painting, (or) a map with some type of image," she said.

The largest piece in the show, called "Red Tide," is a diamond-shape assemblage made up of a series of tide table pages which also are cut into diamond shapes.

"In 'Red Tide' I was putting tide book pages in a repetitive pattern like the rhythms of the ocean," Dickey said. "It's repetitive wave action, but it changes every time you see it."

In a way, "The Journey or the Memory," is two shows in one. When viewed from a distance, the pieces are aesthetically interesting for their symmetry and attention to geometric form correlated with their soothing, blended colors and free-form white highlights.

Up close, the works can been seen in an entirely different context as the viewer ponders the meaning of the maps, text and other graphics incorporate in the pieces.

Dickey said she intentionally strove to create this multilayered effect.

"I like to have pieces that have a cohesiveness and impact from its totality, and I like to have a piece say something in more depth if you look at it longer," she said.

Though each piece has different meanings and depths to explore, they all point out a simple truth that is at the heart of the entire show.

"Cherish your memories, because they will be with you forever," Dickey said.

"The Journey or the Memory" is on display in the Gary L. Freeburg Art Gallery at Kenai Peninsula College through Sept. 20.

Dickey will give a lecture and slide presentation from 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 18 at the college in room 132.

The gallery's hours are 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays.

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