A new exhibition by two University of Alaska Anchorage artists blend huge ceramic sculptures of Alaska wildlife with stark intaglio prints.
Alanna DeRocchi and Jonathan S. Green are the two artists in the “Of Stone” exhibit, which opens Thursday night.
The first piece one sees upon entering the Kenai Fine Arts Center is of an emaciated polar bear, gaunt and drenched and struggling to get to its feet. It’s based on an image DeRocchi once saw.
“Me, I want them to portray kind of a sense of loss, or communicate some kind of an idea about art, like my attachment or our attachment to nature in some ways and kind of feeling a bit of loss or removal from that environment,” she said. “So, some of the imagery like the polar bear that you just mentioned, that's actually taken from an image of photographer and National Geographic photographer named Paul Nicholas. That kind of became the viral image of, you know, climate change, but to me, that image was so powerful. I've just really never seen imagery like that of, you know, an animal dying that struck me so strongly.”
Her other pieces are also based on images she’s seen or taken herself.
“There’s a seal body you know that has its back kind of exposed and that piece alone was actually taken from a picture I took up in Point Hope, just from beachcombing and walking along the beach up there,” she said. “Just some of the parts of animals that we would find. I would photograph and document and just kind of curious about what happened to them and what their story was and not really kind of knowing.”
As we mentioned, her sculptures are huge, including two quarter-scale polar bears, a life-size seal and a striking full-size caribou mount. Their size requires some unusual technique. DeRocchi (De’rocky) explained her process.
“I Build the pieces out of wet clay and allow them to kind of dry and set up and then I'll kind of cut them. So I'll saw them apart into pieces so that I can fire them in those pieces and then once they're completed and fired, they're like you know, hardened. So then I can epoxy them back together and do a lot of grinding and sanding to make them whole again. And then I use just a process of like painting and stains and surfaces. So the pieces aren't, you know, we fired a glaze there, you know, you like painting graphite and things like that to do the surface.”
DeRocchi shares the exhibit with printmaker Jonathan S. Green.
“For this series of work I'm really excited to get to show with my friend who's also my colleague at UAA, Jonathan S. Green. He's an artist in residence in the printmaking studio at UA. And I just am really excited for our work to show together because I think it complements very well,” DeRocchi said. “I just feel like they worked together really well. So I'm really looking forward to having a two person show with them.”
“Of Stone” opens for a monthlong run at the Kenai Fine Arts Center May 2 with a reception 5 to 7 p.m.