March and early April are always my favorite time in Fairbanks. I never do any work in the schools in March, and I have fairly successfully ignored all but the most pressing computer work in order to prioritize taking advantage of the long warm days. It’s hard to sum it up – between the excitement of the Iditarod starting in Fairbanks this year, ski races, skijoring with the dogs, and general enjoyment of good weather and moderate temperatures it has been a lovely late winter.
Dora, my small but mighty main motor
In the studio, I’m focused on two main projects right now. First, a set of five 7×2.5 foot carved and painted panels for Pathways High in Palmer is well underway. I’m on track to have them finished by the end of April and installed in May. Because of the size of the panels and my relatively tight workspace, I won’t have good images of the pieces for a while. They are a set of variations on views of ice – sea ice, stream ice, lake ice – and expansions of ideas I’ve been working with for some time. It is both challenging and exciting to work big.
Panels 1 and 5, before color
Finished and unfinished details
Clearly there is still a bit of work to be done, but I have the time and the all-important selection of audiobooks at the ready. I am also moving forward towards on my new project for Kenai Peninsula College, but this one is taking a bit of time on the committee end. I’m hoping to have more clarity soon.
Details of studio work
The other project is a summer of art shows. Yolande Fejes of the Alaska House Art Gallery and I are celebrating well over a dozen years of working together with a show that will run through June and July, with a substantial change in work between the two months. In August, I’ll have work at the beautiful Tonglen Lake Lodge just south of Denali National Park. I’ll be showing with longtime Denali Park photographer Tom Walker. http://tonglenlake.com/events/performances/121016
I have found that my best way to get ready for exhibits is to work and work, and not worry about what goes where until near the end. Rather than starting with a thesis and then making the work to fit, it seems to go much better for me to let things roll during the process and then edit rather than trying to push the art in one direction. (This does not make for brilliant grant applications, but we all have to work in our own way.) I’ll have more and better images as we get closer to June. Things are moving in a more abstract and pattern-based direction at the moment.
What I’ve been looking at lately
So that’s progress.
As for frustration, last week was one of the most dispiriting weeks I’ve experienced as an artist in Alaska. The consequences of our oil-based economy are becoming painfully evident. Few people are unaffected by budget cuts at the state level. There was an attempt to repeal the 1% for art mandate, which thankfully has failed, at least for now. Although it was heartening to see the quick mobilization of the art community, it was equally disheartening to see how fast a 40 year old program could potentially be dismantled by uninformed legislators. The possible consequences of the budget crisis in education in Alaska is sobering – and, of course, the first teachers in the line of fire are always the art and music educators. We’ll see what happens, but I am tired of watching my friends and colleagues who do this essential work spend every spring worried for their jobs. The assumption that these classes are frosting or not career builders is contradicted by the huge number of professionals working in the arts who come out of Alaska schools. I googled everyone I could think of from my years of school orchestra and it was amazing to see how many have solid careers in music. I am sure this has only continued far past my student years and that it holds true for all areas of the arts. If we want a diversified economy, we have to educate our students in a diverse manner. Of course, this has a class aspect as well – when the arts leave the public schools, only the students whose families have the time, the extra money, the transportation, and the knowledge of where to look for opportunities will have access to the arts. This might make me angrier than any other part of the problem.
On that note, back to the studio.