I was in Juneau, Alaska last week.
It was a treat to see real winter, as ours in Seattle tend to be mild.
Mostly I was there to see my sister Constance, a well known Alaskan artist.
Her solo show, “Breakthrough,” was at The Juneau City Museum, and scheduled to open for Juneau’s big annual Gallery Walk.
We hung her paintings the night before.
Her work is vibrant and exciting. It catches your eye from across the gallery…
…and is mesmerizing up close as well, with intricate detail and creative use of negative space.
Then we shopped for cheese, crackers, nuts, and veggies to serve at the opening.
Constance’s friend Nancy made five dozen deviled eggs, which were also a work of art. (Nancy’s husband Andy applied the garnish.)
There was a great turnout, and Constance sold some beautiful paintings. Her work will be on display until December 27th. To view her artwork for this show and to read her artist statement about it, click here.
The whole town turns out for Gallery Walk. Every shop and gallery in town serves refreshments and features local artists. People come out in droves, wearing their sequins and snowboots.
I popped over to Annie Kaill’s and saw my sister’s painting, Holiday House, in the front window of the shop. This festive painting was on loan to the gallery from its owners. Someone I talked to said he overheard people praising the painting in St. Petersberg!
My favorite art tells a story, and this one tells a story I know. Constance painted it as a gift for her neighbors Jeff and Terry. Look closely and you can see Jeff in his brown overalls on a ladder, putting up his Christmas lights.
Jeff is the kind of neighbor every neighborhood wants and needs, but few are fortunate enough to have. When he mows his own lawn, he also cuts the grass of an elderly neighbor. If Constance comes home and finds her driveway shoveled, she can guess who did it. Constance met him for the first time decades ago, when she bought a sandbox for her kids out in the valley and it wouldn’t fit in her car. She recognized him and, not knowing what else to do, asked a stranger’s help transporting it in his pickup. It was all set up in her yard when she got home. On our visit to Juneau last summer he heard that my son Eli was interested in fishing, and offered to take him out on his boat. Jeff helped Eli land a thirty pound king salmon. It was the highlight of his trip–all of ours, really, because eight of us ate fresh King salmon every night and there was still some to share with the neighbors.
Every year Jeff spends the weeks preceding Christmas putting up tens of thousands of lights on his house, and at least a dozen Santas and snowmen. His electric bill spikes each December, but the people of Juneau count on him to put some serious twinkle into their holiday.
Some people save their treasures for heaven, but I think there’s a twinkle light shining on his house for each kindness Jeff has paid to others. They add up, all those little lights, and push back the darkness for us all.
All words and images copyright 2014 Naomi Baltuck.