Exhibition on view: July 2–31, 2021
Gallery hours: Monday–Saturday, 12–6 p.m.
Bear Gallery visitors please note:
Bear Gallery visitors please note:
COVID-19 mitigation measures: Fairbanks Arts’ board of directors has approved COVID-19 mitigation measures that include (but are not limited to):
- Visitors to the Bear Gallery are highly encouraged to wear a mask. We ask that visitors bring their own masks, but should a visitor be without one, we have a limited supply we can give out.
- Social distancing of no less than 6 ft apart must be observed within the Bear Gallery.
- The current limit of visitors in the gallery at one time is 15 individuals.
- Our COVID-19 mitigation plan involves the frequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces to ensure the safety of our guests, volunteers, and staff.
We appreciate your understanding and cooperation in this effort to stay open while supporting artists and arts supporters safely and responsibly.
At the Edge of All We Have Built
by Counsel Langley
Counsel Langley grew up among shipwrights and foundry workers—people with strong traditional skills and respect for materials. Their influence played a large part in her choice to study metalsmithing at Massachusetts College of Art (earned her BFA, 1999). The rigor of metalwork honed Langley’s discipline, attention for detail, choosing the right tool for the job, and love for surface treatment (rough, smooth, matte, shiny, sparkly, natural, mechanical etc.). Langley’s mixed media pieces have been widely exhibited and her love for cross-discipline collaborations sparked opportunities to work with literary publications, the creation of album art, scenic design, and illustration. She lives with her husband and three children in Homer, Alaska. When not painting she is helping with the family commercial fishing business, awkwardly learning to ski, gardening, and practicing the craft of writing and illustration for kids.
This exhibition, At the Edge of All We Have Built, consists of work from three different series. All of the work has been made in the past two years, the bulk of it during the pandemic. The earliest series, If You Lived Here You’d Be Home by Now, is both about being satisfied with where you are trying to live your life now, being present with what is. While also considering what it might look like when (if) we begin to live off-planet.
The second series, Little Fires Everywhere, also has multiple levels of meaning (this is definitely a pattern in all Langley’s work). Visually it is inspired by very early video games, a bit of 1980s nostalgia—simple paths, platforms, and levels set against a dark background with little glowing things to collect, to draw you in. It is, on one hand, about the stress of daily life, the feeling one is just running around putting out little fires that pop out of everywhere without end. On the other hand, the idea of Little Fires is a representation of sparks of inspiration. Those sparks that can come from anywhere, anything, particularly if you are putting in the work, they are everywhere.
And the third series, the namesake of the entire show, At the Edge of All We Have Built, is fully influenced by the mood of the pandemic and some of the questions it has raised. This reckoning we’ve had with what is “normal.” And the tendency it has had on some to make them wonder if we are in a slow-moving dystopian novel. Yet, once again, that’s not all there is. At the Edge of All We Have Built is hopeful—it is the questioning of boundaries, and taking time to look beyond what we’ve created and have assumed to be true. Visually, this series is taking a cue from scenic turnouts—those delightful opportunities to pull off our highways, get out of the vehicle, and walk to the very edge of our infrastructure so that we may gaze at the sheer beauty of nature as it sprawls before us. What if we move off-planet—why would we not still build those opportunities? A chance to view a particularly stunning nebulae, galaxies, birthplaces of stars. The characters here are mostly in a contemplative isolation, alone with the vista and their thoughts and questions. And, like the silhouettes common to folktale illustration, they are anonymous and therefore can be any of us, all of us.
Langley is always mixing sci-fi and outer space, big universals, right in with the humble, day-to-day, the personal, and no less so with this series. It is about our end times, it is about where the sidewalk ends, the moment when we have built to the edge of our capacity. And it is also simply the view a parent most frequently has, especially when your children are teenagers. You have built a family, you have helped children develop skills, morals, and a collection of experiences. You build all this together so that they take it to the very edge, say “what the heck is over there?” —off they go to find out. And the hope is they are equipped to do so.
Light and Transformation
by Melanie Lombard
Melanie Lombard lives and works in Anchorage, Alaska. She has a degree in art from Mills College in Oakland, California. Although she focused primarily on oil painting during her college years, Melanie is also interested in the relationship between photography and painting. Using a combination of these two disciplines, she explores themes of impermanence, rebirth, and transformation. Much of her recent work is influenced by her collection of abandoned bird nests, which she has a tendency to find on walks in the forest. They have also serendipitously come to her as gifts from friends and family. Cyanotype prints of bird nests make up the majority of her recent work.
Cyanotype printmaking is a photographic process that was used in the 20th century to make blueprints, and is now utilized by artists in a variety of ways. Melanie’s process involves painting cyanotype chemicals onto paper, and then placing bird nests or other materials directly onto the photosensitive paper. She then exposes the nest, peripheral debris, and paper to sunlight. Most of this process happens outside and requires attunement to the sun; its intensity and location in the sky affects the shadows on the print. She then waits for each image to be exposed, which can take from 15 minutes to an hour. Finally, the prints are rinsed, and the nests are transformed into abstract images of cosmic events, each nest creating a portal of light.
This work involves a great deal of experimentation, and the results are often hard to predict. Creating this work has helped Melanie process the groundlessness of the COVID-19 pandemic. By becoming more intimate with the unexpected and delightful aspects of uncertainty, she offers this work as one way to appreciate the inevitability of change, as well as the promise of transformation.