Their work here is nearly done.
Longtime Juneau artist Mark Vinsel and Dianne Anderson, who are husband and wife, are planning to step away from Juneau and its professional arts community over the course of 2019. Works by Anderson and Vinsel will be featured at Juneau Artists Gallery beginning Jan. 4, and they will be on display throughout the month ahead of what the artists are calling their retirement.
“I’ll miss the contact with everyone and having a venue,” Anderson told the Capital City Weekly during a lengthy conversation at Juneau Artists Gallery. “It will be a huge loss.”
Anderson has been a fixture at Juneau Artists Gallery, a local artists cooperative, for more than 20 years, and she has been a member of the community for even longer.
“They call me the den mother,” Anderson said. “It seems like I’m always cleaning up.”
Anderson moved to Juneau from Anchorage in the mid ’80s to teach. She taught art classes at University of Alaska Southeast for 22 years and served as an art specialist for public, private and charter schools in Juneau.
“I totally love Juneau,” Anderson said. “It’s been a wonderful place to teach. I have people 6 feet tall coming up to me and saying, ‘Hi Miss Dianne,’ and I don’t recognize them because when I had them they were up to here.”
She gestured to about waist level and said she’s always enjoyed running into past students as well as seeing them progress from grade school to the university.
“That’s one of the things I’m really going to miss,” Anderson said.
Vinsel, who sketches, paints in watercolors and works with wood, has been a Juneauite since 2000. He too is deeply involved with the Juneau Artists Gallery and serves as treasurer.
He moved to the area from California 18 years ago because of Anderson.
They struck up an email correspondence through a mutual friend before the new millennium. They hit it off online and later in person, and Vinsel relocated to Juneau.
Vinsel’s day job is working for the advocacy group United Fisherman of Alaska, and he is anticipating days when casting a rod and creating art make up the bulk of his to-do list.
“I’m looking forward to time when I don’t have to do anything other than paint and fish,” Vinsel said.
Favorite projects and dreams deferred
Both Vinsel and Anderson said their time in Alaska — particularly in Juneau — has had an indelible effect on their lives and work.
Vinsel has made boats, frames and instruments that he likely would not have created living anywhere else.
“I think we all get inspired by how good our wood is,” Vinsel said.
That inspiration has led to a pineapple ukulele for which Vinsel has a design patent and a plywood McInnis Bateau — a type of small watercraft — Vinsel calls The Patience, among many other creations.
He is particularly proud of the small boat and his work in advocacy, Vinsel said, and he pointed them out of highlights from his time here.
However, there is one goal Vinsel doubts he will reach before moving away.
“I always wanted to catch a halibut off the fly,” Vinsel said. “I’m not sure that will happen.”
Anderson said helicopter flights with her son to glaciers and separate encounters with brown bears along the Taku River while volunteering for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game changed her artwork.
“After, that, I always had bears in my art,” Anderson said. “Glacier textures changed my art, too.”
Before the move to the Lower 48, Anderson said she has a few things she would like to do. Some are more likely to be realized than others.
One, is making cloth circles for a giant octopus that is being built for the Alaska State Library, Archives and Museum’s children’s area. That’s already a work in progress and a lock to happen.
“I’ve been having a lot of fun at my sewing machine,” Anderson said.
Another is venturing further into the northern part of Alaska and perhaps seeing a polar bear in the wild.
“I have not gotten any farther north than Fairbanks,” Anderson said. “I would love to go as far north as I could go, but that’s not going to happen.”
Despite a deep love for Juneau, Anderson and Vinsel are hoping to be in Washington state at a piece of property Anderson calls Robinsong Ranch by 2020.
Much of the time between now and then will be spent readying their Juneau property for sale and preparing for a move to the state where Anderson was raised.
“It’s a homecoming,” Anderson said. “After my parents died it was like I lost my home. It just called to me.”
While she’ll be getting back to her roots, Anderson’s time in Juneau will be reflected in the landscape.
She has flown with pots of fireweed and planted raspberries on the property, and hopes they will thrive.
“It’s not marijuana, it can travel on the plane,” Anderson said.
While there will be a home base, Vinsel and Anderson don’t plan to stay in one place for long. Anderson envisions traveling around the western United States in a trailer, and traveling by ferry toward nowhere in particular and creating quick sketches is also an appealing thought for Vinsel.
“I’m looking forward to traveling without an itinerary,” Vinsel said.
Cuba, where Vinsel was born on a military base, and Scotland, Anderson’s ancestral origin, are also on the sightseeing to-do list.
Both Vinsel, who paints watercolors, sketches and works with wood, and Anderson, whose work includes oil paintings, etchings, screening and more, intend to continue to create.
Vinsel said he will enjoy having a warmer work space during the winter, so he can continue to make ukuleles, boats and frames for paintings.
“In my retirement, I’ll have a shop with some amount of heat,” he said. “As I get older, it’s harder to work in the cold.”
Similarly, Anderson said as time went by and arthritis crept in, etchings became painful to make, but painting remains pain free.
She’s looking forwarding to painting based on what inspires her brush to move rather than what will make financial sense in Juneau.
“I want to focus on things where I don’t care if they’re bears or glaciers for tourists,” Anderson said. “I’m going to paint some things that are part of my memories. It will be total freedom.”
• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.