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Local artist enlivens Anchorage airport with 750,000-piece birch mosaic

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Posted: Tuesday, November 3, 2009 3:11 am | Updated: 12:47 pm, Wed Dec 26, 2012.

FAIRBANKS - On your next trip through the Anchorage airport, be sure to look for the trees.

The final step in the half-billion-dollar construction project was the reopening Sunday of Concourses A and B.

When the wall that had separated Concourse B from the rest of the main terminal for the past two years was removed, a major new work of art by Fairbanks painter Kes Woodward and Anchorage sculptor Sheila Wyne was unveiled.

“Canopy” is a mosaic on a portion of an elevated ceiling, constructed of 750,000 or more tiles.

Walk under this canopy and the view is like that of looking up toward the sky in the presence of birch trees as captured by the brush of one of Alaska’s leading artists.

The second major element in the artwork is a mosaic column, an abstract rendition of a birch tree trunk.

“Our hope is that passengers will see this single mosaic column as they come out of the security screening area or head from their planes toward this junction of the two main concourses, and will want to examine it more closely,” Woodward wrote on his blog.

“Only when they get near to it will the ceiling come into view, and we hope that the dramatic appearance of the forest canopy overhead will not only reveal the column's reference, but surprise and delight all who walk beneath it.”

Woodward taught art at the University of Alaska Fairbanks for 20 years and retired in 2000 so he could paint full time, working in the studio from about

8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“I believe that inspiration comes in doing the work, rather than needing to be found before starting,” he has said.

People often ask why I always seem to return to birch trees as subject matter. First, I think they are among the most beautiful things I've ever seen. They’re not at all white and black, as most people think of them, but display an amazing range of beautiful colors, textures and individual forms. I call a lot of my birch tree paintings “birch portraits,” because the trees seem to me so individual. As with people, a lot of the history of their lives can be seen in the way they look.

More often than not he returns to birch trees as his subject of choice.

“When people who don’t know my work ask me what I paint, I tell them I make big, abstract paintings that happen to look like birch trees. Most of my paintings look very realistic from a distance, and very abstract close-up. I like being able to have it both ways.”

•••

POPULAR TREE: The forest at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport has nothing to do, by the way, with the entrance to the Fairbanks airport, where the new sign evokes a birch forest with a series of 10 steel poles.

•••

SKI FEST: The annual Skifest, held at the start of the cross-country ski season, is set for Saturday evening at the Student Rec Center at UAF.

The doors open at 5 p.m., with dinner at 6 and a program at 7.

Dinner is free for members of the UAF Nanooks Ski Team Booster Club or the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks. You can sign up for both at the event.

There will be door prizes, with extra raffle tickets for those who drop off old cell phones and used inkjet cartridges.

Bring a dessert for the potluck. Families are welcome. Call 474-6802 for more info.

•••

TOP 40: The latest list of “Alaska’s Top 40 Under 40,” compiled by the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce and the Alaska Journal of Commerce includes two sub-40 professionals from Fairbanks — Forrest Karr of UAF and Seth Church of C Company, a contracting firm.

There are 29 people on the list from the Anchorage area, two from Kenai and one each from Bethel, Homer, Juneau, Kodiak, Nome, Palmer and Valdez.

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