Alaska’s Lone Bona Fide Art Critic

Today, we’re going on an art walk. Jean Bundy has been doing these walks annually for about four years in the Anchorage area. For her, it’s about discovering new and interesting artists.

“So I decided I’d go up and down midtown Anchorage and see what was available. Most people are familiar with our downtown area but there’s a lot of art that’s moved to midtown,” says Bundy.

Bundy belongs to a very distinguished group called the International Association of Art Critics. Only about 400 people in the entire country can boast the title, and getting it isn’t easy.

“You have to have written for four or five years in the art world, and you actually submit your columns, your essays to them. So, to my knowledge I’m the only one in Alaska that is AICA certified,” Bundy says.

Even if she isn’t, Bundy certainly has the credentials to make her Alaska’s lone art critic. She has earned both a Bachelors and Masters Degree of fine arts, and is currently pursuing a PhD. She also paints, and writes art essays about various topics like the walk we’re going on today. For her first essay entry she chose the Starfish Company clothing shop. Bundy says the artist behind these works is Marci Nelson.

“Marci does one-of-a-kind t-shirts and sweatshirts. Marci did not go to art school proper, but she has a lot of biology background. Her artwork on her t-shirts is very biological, but not in an unaesthetic way,” says Bundy.

The colorful interior of the Starfish Company store in Anchorage.
The colorful interior of the Starfish Company store in Anchorage.

Along with Nelson’s signature starfish logo, there are loads of Alaskan animals featured, including salmon, ravens, and even some insects, all of which Bundy says are done by a pen and ink technique. Another thing she instantly takes note of are the vibrant colors.

“She’s a good example, especially with Fur Rondy coming up, of a place you can go to bask in color. Color is something I think in the winter time we definitely need. It’s almost that the stacks of t-shirts and sweatshirts almost look like their painted on the wall, and become an abstract in themselves,” says Bundy.

After a thorough look around we’re back on the street to plan our next move.

Bundy says she tries to look for artists who aren’t necessarily the ones that get publicized all the time, but people who are very talented. People that maybe fall below the radar screen. And our next artist is definitely off the radar. I follow Bundy to a simple unmarked house in the Fairview area where we meet an artist named Ed Mighell.

Mighell takes us through his front yard and into his workshop, where he shows us his operation. He does tile work here, which he ends up selling at the weekend markets and local art exhibits. All of Mighell’s customized tiles are made from clay he gathers from Cook Inlet.

“Maybe 30 buckets, 5 gallon buckets, and that will last me the whole year. And right now I put this on some dry wall, sheets of dry wall. Then I’ll grind it up on my press,” explains Mighell.

It doesn’t take long before Mighell and Bundy are talking shop. Bundy digs into her research. Some of Mighell’s designs are custom plasters, which he either makes by hand, or by more unconventional means.

“For this crab, I used a real crab, I encased it into a slab, and then I poured plaster over it. He came out in one piece, he was still in his shell,” Mighell said, referring to a figure of a crab.

Jean Bundy and local tile artist review his work.
Jean Bundy and local tile artist Ed Mighell review his work.

“Did you put a little butter, a little garlic on him?” Bundy retorted.

Jean Bundy is probably the nicest art critic you’ll ever meet. Chances are you won’t be reading any scathing reviews in her essays.

“I get criticized by not saying bad things about anybody, but I think it’s a waste of time and an element that should be avoided. Everyone has something there. And I think just going into an interview and just saying bad things about anybody is just cliché,” says Bundy.

And true to her philosophy, when I ask what she thought about today’s artists, she focuses on the positives. Then again, maybe it’s impossible for art to be simply cut and dried. Bundy says everything is just so abstract now.

“The art world has become Postmodern, which means it not only uses traditional color and clay, but it also does a lot of thinking. I laugh sometimes because if you throw your laundry on the floor, you can create an art project.”

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David Waldron began his radio career in 2000 as a volunteer DJ at UAA’s radio station KRUA 88.1, where he hosted a weekend music show. In 2004 he was hired as the station’s Music Director, and held the position until his graduation in 2007. After a few radio odd jobs, he was hired by Alaska Public Media in 2008 as an operator and audio engineer. He currently engineers the statewide programs Alaska News Nightly and Talk of Alaska for APRN, as well as KSKA's Hometown Alaska and Line One: Your Health Connection. He also hosts and produces AK, a weekly news program that airs at the end of Alaska News Nightly on Fridays. dwaldron (at) alaskapublic (dot) org | 907.550.8425 | About Dave

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