Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sally Troxell Art Show

"Reeds" art quilt by Sally Troxell was recently purchased by
the museum thanks to the Rasmuson Foundation's Art
Acquisition Fund. Kodiak Hsitorical Society Collections.
This Friday, we are thrilled to be hosting an art show and sale of Sally Troxell's work as part of the Art and Culture Walk. Sally is an accomplished artist who creates bold and colorful art quilts that often incorporate maritime and natural motifs. Her inventive sewing style makes her art easily recognizable within the community of Kodiak. She will have many recent works hanging within the enclosed glass porch of the museum, which will be available for purchase. In addition, we are pleased to have several of Sally’s smaller works for sale in the museum store.

"Sockeye" is embellished with
beads and buttons to mimic
seaweed. Kodiak Historical
Society Collections.
Moreover, we are pleased to announce that the museum has received a grant from the Rasmuson Foundation’s Art Acquisition Fund to purchase four of Sally’s quilt for the museum’s permanent collection. The Art Acquisition Fund exists to support both contemporary Alaskan artists and Alaskan museums and cultural centers by making money available for museums and cultural centers to purchase recently created works of art. “Sockeye,” “Streamside,” “The Reeds,” and “The River” are bold, colorful pieces that depict the journey of migrating salmon. These newest additions to the museum’s art collection will be on display Friday, and beginning in October they will be on temporary exhibit within the museum. We thank the Rasmuson Foundation and Sally for these pieces.

For over 20 years, Sally has dedicated herself to sewing and embellishing intricate quilts. She comes from a line of gifted seamstresses and quilters. She took up quilting regularly as a young adult, when she moved with her family to remote Anton Larsen Bay on Kodiak Island. Sally writes that “making quilts and knitting sweaters for my family fit into the DIY/ handmade lifestyle that we were living.”

"Streamside" by Sally Troxell will be on exhibit at the museum for the Art and Culture Walk and again beginning in October.
Kodiak Historical Society Collections.
In 2010, Sally took a relief printing workshop under Evon Zerbetz, which influenced her work profoundly. Prior to the course, she usually employed commercial fabrics, but since 2010, most of her art quilts incorporate the art of printmaking. She carves linocuts and creates block prints on fabric, which she then incorporates into her art quilts. Additionally, she now hand dyes fabric, so that most of her pieces now contain both commercial fabric and hand printed and hand dyed fabrics.

"The River" by Sally Troxell.
Kodiak Historical Society Collections
Sally Troxell’s art quilts have been exhibited at the Anchorage Museum’s 2008 exhibition, Earth, Fire and Fiber and at the Kodiak Bear Paw Quilt Guild Show. In addition, her work hangs in Representative Alan Austerman’s congressional office, at Kodiak College, at the A. Holmes Johnson Memorial Library in Kodiak, at the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, among other locations. Now, her work has another permanent home with the Baranov Museum/ Kodiak Historical Society.

Please come to the museum on Friday, August 31 from 4-7 to see Sally’s newest work and pick up one of her art quilts for yourself.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fox and Boots

One of Bob Chamberlain's boots,
There is an old pair of leather work boots in one of the museum’s collections storage rooms, neatly packed in an archival box. They have black rubber bottoms, grommets for lacing up, and are a men’s size 9. In a room full of finely woven Aleutian baskets and stone artifacts, these boots are a bit of an anomaly. According to the records, they belonged to Bob Chamberlain, and former board member Deedee Pierson (nee Owen) gave them to the museum several decades ago.

But who was Bob Chamberlain? It was time for some historical sleuthing. I promptly called Deedee to get the scoop on Mr. Chamberlain, or, as I soon found out, “Old Bob.” After speaking with Deedee and her sister, Hazel Jones, a larger than life sourdough emerged from their stories. And their stories were actually Bob’s stories, tales he wove each evening for the Owen children as he smoked his pipe at the end of a day of fox farming on Marmot Island.

Bob Chamberlain, Alaskan sourdough
Hazel Jones collection, P 894-5.
It seems that Bob came to Alaska in 1898 as an Argonaut, aboard his sternwheeler. He and his partner steamed their boat up the Yukon, froze in for the winter, and continued upriver after the breakup of the ice, getting a head start on the other miners. Later, in Nome, he became an acquaintance of Wyatt Earp’s, and reportedly had to pay $1 for the luxury of using an outhouse on Nome’s infamous beach. He travelled to Rampart and from there to Fairbanks, where he struck it rich at Dome Creek. Once he’d made his poke, he opened a cigar and ice cream parlor in Fairbanks.

In the late 1930s, he was ready to move again. He came to Kodiak, with the intention of purchasing the Belmont Bar. Apparently, he found the open sewage running under the establishment not to his liking, and claimed that the bar was on the wrong side of town. He abandoned his plans and instead purchased the lease for fox farming on Marmot Island from Carl Pajoman of Afognak.  He brought red fox and snowshoe rabbits to the island and built a 2-story house on one side of the island and established trapping cabins in other locations on the island. Bob had 2 large gardens from which he grew strawberries, rhubarb, rutabaga, potatoes and the like. He canned throughout the summer and in the winter ate from his larder, only needing salt and sourdough to supplement his diet. He also kept a herd of dairy cattle.
One of Bob's cabins on Mamot Island,
with a fox in the foreground. Hazel Jones
Collection P 894-3.

Old Bob became friends with the Owen family, and Kodiak fisherman and politician Al Owen was swept up in fox farming craze that by now had gripped large swaths of Alaska. Al decided to try it out for himself, becoming Bob’s partner. As a result, the Owen family moved to Marmot Island in 1942. World War II was in full swing, and the family had to get special permission to leave town. Each night, the family would listen to Tokyo Rose on the radio, followed by Old Bob’s stories of sourdoughs and misfits.

Old Bob with his pipe.
 Hazel Jones collection, P 894-6.

Bob Chamberlain died around 1961. But in a way, his stories live on through those old work boots. Sure, he likely didn’t pan for gold in them, and perhaps he never pelted a fox while wearing them, but those shoes still can convey the journeys of Old Bob Chamberlain.