Though it is tough to improve on Mother Nature, the artists with work selected for the 24th "Earth, Fire and Fibre" exhibit, on display at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center, have essentially done just that.
The statewide, biennial show organized by the Anchorage Museum of History and Art focuses on art made from natural mediums, like wood, clay, fiber, glass or animal products. With that caveat, artists were free to let their designs and inspirations run wild.
As a result, the show has a wide variety of pieces to look at. In all, 62 pieces from 51 Alaska artists were selected for the show, out of 356 submissions from 140 artists in all.
"I was surprised and impressed with the wide range of three-dimensional work (in the show)," said Connie Tarbox of Soldotna, who has a piece in the show.
Sculptures made from various mediums do make up a large portion of the show. Tarbox's piece, "Life Force," is an alabaster sculpture.
The work is abstract and consists of two rectangular shapes jutting out of a more indistinctively shaped base. The theme of the work ties in nicely with the theme of the show an emphasis on the primacy of nature.
According to Tarbox, the rectangular shapes represent technology, and they are falling because they are not rooted in nature.
Fran Reed of Anchorage used red snapper skin, wish bones, gut, willow and wire to create her piece, "Red Snapper Charm."
"It's about, in some ways, the clash between man and nature technology and nature," she said. "The life force is not coming from the earth and that's why the geometric forms are sinking, falling."
This is the first time Tarbox has gotten her work accepted in "Earth, Fire and Fibre." She is relatively new to sculpture she started three years ago and currently is pursuing an art degree at Kenai Peninsula College so having a piece selected to a statewide touring exhibit is a thrill for her.
"It was really an honor and I was very surprised and excited to see that I could compete in that broad a forum," she said.
Another piece in the show demonstrates the same nature versus technology theme. "Raven's Night-mare," by Louis Cacioppo of Gustavus, is a carved alder wood, bone and copper sculpture depicting a raven head done in a Native style that is melded with a crying human face. The piece is interspersed with bits of circuitry, wiring, bolts and other technological gizmos that give it a Frankenstein look.
Much of the show, both the three- and two-dimensional pieces, is more about decorative appeal than making statements on society. Betty Ames of Kenai has one of the larger pieces accepted in the show a machine-pieced and hand-quilted wall hanging called "Pansy Prose."
Betty Ames of Kenai won a juror's choice award for her fiber piece, "Pansy Prose."
The piece is aptly named, as it consists of a purple pansy flower surrounded by colorful embellishments that are detailed enough to warrant being called visual prose.
The quilt won one of eight juror's choice awards selected by the juror, Mark Richard Leach, director of the Mint Museum of Craft and Design in Charlotte, N.C.
Ames has a long history in art; she was a potter for 20 years and has painted for a number of years, she said. She got into quilting in 1998, following the example of her mother, who was a quilter.
"I always thought I wanted to make a quilt, and then I got addicted," she said.
This is Ames' third time being accepted to "Earth, Fire and Fibre."
"It's just a real thrill to be selected in a prestigious juried show," Ames said. "I think it's a beautiful show. There are some really outstanding pieces there."
"Earth, Fire and Fibre" is on display at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center through Oct. 24. Admission is $3. The center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
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