Artists play with metal in February show

When it comes to art shows with open calls, especially really niche ones, Kenai Art Center Executive Director Alex Rydlinski used to keep his expectations low.

“Every time we do an open call, we never know what to expect,” he said. “But with metal work, I had no idea there were this many people working in metal, working this creatively. There’s techniques that — I don’t even know how they put these things together.”

The center’s February show, opening today, is called “Metalwork and Play.”

And the center’s main gallery space is filled with metal pieces from more than 20 local artists, from sculptures to wall hangings and pieces of furniture.

Board President Marion Nelson came up with the idea for the show. She said it’s the first time the center has had a show dedicated to metalwork, alone.

“We certainly have seen people enter things that we’ve never seen before,” she said. “Which is, of course, great from our perspective. The more people involved in the art center, the more we love it.”

One artist, Homer’s Jeff Dean, has made what looks like a painting from metal and fire, using heat to color different parts of the steel sheet around a river scene. In the middle of the room sits a large metal railing by C.O. Rudstrom — a commissioned piece that Rydlinski said he uninstalled from someone’s home to put in the exhibit.

A second exhibit in the back room of the art center this month is a solo show from Homer artist Ed Hutchinson, called “Alaskan Wildlife Portraitures.”


Sabine Poux



Ed Hutchinson’s solo show is up in the center’s rear gallery through the month of February.

Sabine Poux



Some of Hutchinson’s pieces, like this one, of a musk ox, are made from white paint layered on white canvas.

Some of Hutchinson’s landscapes burst with color, while others are colorless — layering textured white oil paint onto white canvas to depict musk ox and other Arctic animals. Rydlinski said that’s part of his signature style.

“He’s always fascinated with wildlife,” he said. “And he always has these little trivia attached to the wall. So it says like, ‘What’s this goshawk doing over here?’ Or, ‘Why does this baby seal not have spots?’”

This is the second time already this year the art center has featured two shows at once. Last month’s exhibit featured Kenai artist Diane Dunn and a retrospective on the late Kasilof artist Ann-Lillian Schell.

Rydlinski said that’s possible since the center renovated the back of its space, in the former jail.

“The renovations for the space were geared toward workshops, which is still true, we’ve been having a lot of workshops lately,” he said. “But it’s also nice and clean back here, so we couldn’t resist having shows back here.”

Metalwork is not the last open call show this winter. The March open call is bird-themed, just in time for the return of spring migratory birds.

Rydlinski said they’ll be taking aviary art in all mediums. He said he’s no longer worried about not having enough art to hang in the gallery.

“There’s a confidence that I have in the community, now,” he said. “So I’ve just wiped that anxiety from my life, and said, ‘I can’t wait to see how long it’s going to take us to hang these many many pieces that are definitely coming in.’”:

The metalwork show and Hutchinson’s show both open today.

There will be a first Thursday reception this evening with live music— not heavy metal music, which Rydlinski said would’ve been on theme, but the stylings of the Kenai River Brass Quintet — Frances Jurek, Mark Jurek, Jeanne Duhan, Kent Peterson and Cole Watkins. The reception is 5 to 7 p.m. at the Art Center in Old Town Kenai.


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