Story last updated at 2:40 p.m. Friday, July 5, 2002

July First Friday scene rich
by Carey James
Staff Writer

photo: entertainment
  Photo by Carey James, Homer News
Erik Behnke's watercolor of a skater, now on display at Latitude 59, is one of many creative images of athletes the artist has created in recent years.  
Summer's in full swing, and the Homer arts scene is full of a rich mix of mediums. From blown glass to collaborative mother and son collages, there's a full spectrum of choices to appease this month's First Friday gallery-goer's fancy.

At the Bunnell Street Gallery, two Homer artists, Mavis Muller and Asia Freeman, team up to offer different interpretations on the art that surrounds us, our natural setting.

Muller's artistic offering comes in the form of intricately woven baskets made entirely of elements found in nature.

Muller said one of the delights of basket-making is the search for interesting materials. She uses the surrounding fields and woods to gather items such as birch, cottonwood, alder, willow and spruce, weaves in stinging nettles, wild grasses, cattails and seaweed and decorates with shells, feathers, and stones.

"Living in a rural setting, I am constantly aware of nature's colors, textures and variation," Muller wrote in her artist's statement. "I use my observations of nature, along with the inherent characteristics of individual plant fibers, to express my interest in internal and external space."

Muller said her baskets originate from the spot in the natural world where the edges of different zones come together, the "ecotone."

"These baskets hold the metaphor of the margin, serving us to examine our own place in this condition," she said. "It is a fuzzy line that separates us from the earth's environment."

Asia Freeman, co-founder and director of the Bunnell Street Gallery, displays her oil landscapes this month along with Muller.

In her artist's statement, Freeman sites her early years growing up in the Homer area as an influence on her current passion for landscape painting.

"The idyllic beauty that surrounded me, the support of my artistic parents and the creative necessities of our rural lifestyle, visually and imaginatively indulged me," she said. "My work in the arts belies the fact that I have homesteading roots."

In addition to her childhood artistic immersion, Freeman attended Yale University and Vermont's Norwich University, where she received her master's degree.

"Likeness to the original subject is less important to me than painting, which, like this landscape, breathes on its own," she said of her work. "My favorite paintings make me want to pick up a brush and get involved, not for their perfection, but because of their energy and momentum, like an irresistible dance."

An artist's slide presentation will be held at the gallery at 4:30 p.m. Friday followed by a reception from 5:30 to 7:30.

At the Fireweed Gallery, Susan and Zakary Phillips Cushing will present "The Clouds Should Know Me By Now," a collage collaboration between mother and son.

In her artist's statement, Susan Phillips Cushing said her mother noted in her baby book that she "seems to have an artistic flare." Since then, however, Phillips Cushing said she has gone through a cycle of artwork.

"From flare to art school to workshops to burnout to shows to workshops to acrylic abstracts to silk screen printing to burnout to pencil drawings to watercolors to burnout to inks to texturizing and finally back to cut and paste," she said. "Maybe it's true (that) 'all I need to know I learned in kindergarten.'"

An opening reception will be held Friday from 5 to 7 p.m.

At the Ptarmigan Arts Back Room Gallery, Michele Bournonville and her husband, John Fejes present "Hot Glass," an exhibit of blown and sculptured glass by Midnight Sun Hot Glass.

The exhibit includes more than 35 pieces, such as a metal and glass table, some metal sculptural pieces, glass goblets, balls, bowls, paperweights and vases.

"We love working with the hot glass and hope people enjoy it," Bournonville said.

An opening reception will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday.

At Latitude 59, Erik Behnke, a local artist born with Down syndrome, will exhibit through August.

Behnke, whose art became well known after it was selected for the poster of the 2001 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Anchorage, now exhibits at galleries around the state, but this will be his first Homer show.

Behnke's mother, Linda Thompson, said the show includes recent and past works of both animals and sports images, two areas Behnke excels in.

Behnke will not be in town for an opening reception this month, but is hoping to hold one next month.

At Picture Alaska Art Gallery, Bellingham, Wash., artist Lorna Libert's work, titled "An Exhibit of Oil Paintings," will be on display through July. Libert visited Homer last summer and took photos from which she produced much of this work, including many images of old fishing vessels.

"These worn and weathered boats suggest the passage of time as well as the history of Alaska," Libert said in her artist's statement.

An opening reception will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday.

At the Homer Council on the Arts, an exhibit of art titled "Selections from the Kenai Peninsula College Monotype and Landscape Painting Workshop," will be shown this month.

An opening reception will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday.

Libby Berezin's pottery exhibit titled "High Tea," will be shown at the Art Shop Gallery with an opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, and Byron Birdsall will be on hand at the gallery on Saturday from 1:30 to 7 p.m.

Continuing on display at the Pratt Museum is "Looking Both Ways, Heritage and Identity of the Alutiiq People," through Sept. 15 as well as "Facing the Elements," an outdoor art show on display behind the museum.