|Program Area:||Arts, Culture, Humanities|
She assembles statements here in wood, metal, tile—anything
Arts and Culture Initiative
The Arts and Culture Initiative goals are to ensure that:
- Alaska's quality of life is enhanced by a diverse and vibrant cultural community.
- Alaska's population has access to, engages in, and values arts and culture.
- Alaska provides a dynamic and supportive environment for creative artists.
- Alaska's cultural organizations are healthy and have the supports they need to be successful.
- Arts and culture are an integral part of pre-K through grade-12 education.
- Buildings, parks and other constructed projects enhance Alaska's visual landscape.
Wyne is impossibly slender in a stretchy black top, another contrast to the previous owner, who my imagination has endowed with a big pot belly, Carhart overalls and a round, whiskered face. He would have used the steel beam along the ceiling to lift an
engine block from a beat-up International Harvester pick-up. Wyne uses it for heavy lifting, too: she lifts ideas. The garage is her art studio. She assembles statements here in wood, metal, tile—anything. The medium is whatever material best manifests her moment's fancy or conviction. The old guy would have let his friends lift stuff here, and Wyne does, too. She lent her studio to a performance artist who needed to practice hoisting herself by her body piercings.
There's still junk all over the place, just a different kind. A leg with pants and a shoe, all carved of wood, hangs from the ceiling; a rumpled unmade bed made to appear of bronze is mounted on the wall; outside, an old-fashioned fridge with a latching handle sits amid the debris, a quote from Bertrand Russell scribbled on the door. Inside the fridge, Wyne painted a homage to "The Figure 5 In Gold," by Charles Demuth. But since the door is frozen shut she can only describe the painting to me, not show it, which may even enhance the piece.
Out of 220 applicants, Wyne recently received a $12,000 fellowship from the Rasmuson Foundation's Arts and Culture Initiative (18 artists got awards of various sizes). The invitation for proposals mentioned giving fellowships so artists would have time to create without worldly pressures. But Wyne didn't need time: she was already devoting every aspect of her life to art. She travels. She works. She doesn't have a residence other than her work space. What she needed was a toilet, a sink, and a roof that would keep the rain out. The Outside panel that reviewed her portfolio seems to have thought that was a reasonable request.
Now Wyne can walk through the studio and point to where the roof will be raised, creating a living space, and where the toilet will stand, creating relief from peeing in below-zero cold. "I doubt anyone else used the word ‘pee' in their fellowship application," she said.
I wondered why our society allocates so little of its vast wealth to fine art, which is its highest and most lasting expression. Why should a toilet be such a big deal? Why should artists be poor?
Wyne gently corrected me. The previous owner (the one in my imagination) would have answered the same way.