Soldotna art show celebrates LGBT progress on the Peninsula

Art Works gallery in Soldotna is hosting "Celebrate" this month, an Alaska art show honoring the progress made by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. "It's social commentary. It's making people think," said gallery owner Zirrus VanDevere, adding that it's time for the Peninsula to start talking about these issues.

VanDevere told the Peninsula Clarion that the strong tension in Alaska between the live-and-let-live attitude and those who oppose 'alternative lifestyles' prevents many people from coming out:
"It's something we should be talking about on the Kenai Peninsula," she said. "We are isolated, in a way, but we are part of the whole world. If we don't address this issue we are going to be left behind."

She said the show "could easily be a rant" but she wanted it to "be positive about the changes that are occurring."

VanDevere, who identifies herself as bisexual, will be displaying one of her own abstract paintings with a caption about being how and who you are.

Other local artists who will be displayed include Donna Steele, Theresa Napolitano and Joe Kashi, along with Anchorage artists like Shelia Wyne.

Kiana Johnson, a senior at Skyview High School, said she wanted to be a part of the show to demonstrate support for gay and transgender people on the Peninsula.

"I have a lot of friends who are gay," she said. "I thought it was a cool opportunity to show my art and a cool opportunity for people to gain acceptance throughout the community."

Her painting is an abstract representation of figures and a tree. She said she was trying to depict a separation between the bland figures and their surroundings that she says signifies our misconceptions of people, based on what we think they should be.

"Having a show like this really shows how far we've come as a community," said Sierra McKenzie Ball, a 2008 graduate of Soldotna High School who currently lives in Seattle.

Her two acrylic paintings, "Bound," and "What are we made of," are of people's faces, she said, and a reflection on herself and her own bisexuality.

Having younger artists like Johnson and Ball display their work in "Celebrate" is something VanDevere is especially passionate about.

"The youth becoming adults now are way more open-minded."
"Celebrate" runs through the end of April at Art Works in Soldotna. An expanded version will open later at Out North's gallery in Anchorage.

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