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Kenai art exhibits capture different moods

A look at the front
Hunter Morrison
Work on view in the front gallery of the Kenai Art Center

If you step through the front door of the Kenai Art Center, you’ll be greeted by a riot of shapes and colors in the form of textile art, acrylic paintings and metalwork. Take a walk to the back gallery and you’ll come face-to-face with digital animal portraits that radiate tranquility.

The installation is one of the gallery’s few this year that has enough work to split between two spaces.

“It’s going to be a fantastic experience in both rooms," said Kenai Art Center Executive Director Charlotte Coots. "Both rooms are very different, you have a different feeling in both of them, but I think everybody is going to come away realizing that we have a lot of talent in this area that maybe they don’t know about.” 

Chelline Larson has about 30 eye-catching pieces of fabric work on view in the center’s front gallery. Inspired in part by nature, some of her work incorporates metal, stones and beads. She’s also the owner of Soldotna’s Dragonfly Gallery, a summertime art store that sells much of her work.

Larson says it’s special to have work on view in a setting outside of her shop.

“To be able to see your work in a space that large is kind of a unique experience for most people that haven’t done a lot of shows," Larson said. "I really love that about it, it’s a whole different perspective to see a group of your work in a large space.”

Larson's work is coupled with that of her husband. Adam Hoyt is an all-around craftsman but particularly enjoys metalwork. His favorite of the six pieces on view is a table lamp, which sits in the corner of the gallery.

Hoyt says the lamp draws comparisons to something from the 1920s or ’30s.

“I’ve kind of been intrigued with the Art Deco era and the art that came from it," he said. "That one was actually my design, I kind of just tried for that, and that’s what appeared. I hope everybody else likes it.” 

Charles Atkins' digital animal portraits
Hunter Morrison
Charles Atkins' digital animal portraits

Patrons of the art center will be transported to a wildlife haven upon entering the rear gallery. Charles Atkins is the artist behind 20 pieces of realistic, yet simple, animal portraits. Designed with computer software, the Alaska-centric creatures are portrayed as individuals who look viewers directly in the eye.

Originally intended to be calendar graphics, the animal depictions become more realistic as you walk from left to right of the gallery. Atkins says this setup exhibits his artistic development.

“I would hope that when people go through the exhibit, that they admire the quality along with the work," Atkins said. "But also, they each find something that touches them as an experience. The human experience.” 

If you’re craving more art, the Kenai Chamber of Commerce has a new installation of its own. Jessie Gacal is a string artist who moved here from the Philippines. His 13 pieces on view portray several notable flora and fauna, like wolves, eagles and puffins.

Gacal says this is his first art show in Kenai.

“When I moved here, it brought out the best in me," he said. "When I’m in Alaska, I’m so inspired by nature with the wildlife here, the people and the places.” 

According to Gacal, string art looks similar to painted work. His craft is presented as somewhat of an optical illusion, in various shapes, from straight lines of string.

Jessie Gacal shows off his string art
Jessie Gacal
Jessie Gacal shows off his string art

Artists in both galleries say having a local space to display their work is crucial, as it not only promotes their craft but inspires a community.

“I hope that they remember the beauty and the emotion that is held in a piece of work, that you might not have expected when you first walk in," Coots said. "Even as just a looker, if you don’t know the artist or understand their process, you can feel something from their piece of art. That’s what I hope people walk away with, that they feel something different when they leave.” 

Both galleries will have their opening receptions this Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. The exhibits will be on view throughout the month of May.

Hunter Morrison is a news reporter at KDLL
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