PUBLISHED: 4:09 PM on Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Clair brightens the local color at Juneau Artists Gallery
As the featured artist and newest member at Juneau Artists Gallery, Rick Clair will be unveiling his vivid collection of artwork this First Friday, Aug. 3, at the gallery downtown in the Senate Mall Building. Clair, self-proclaimed Douglas hermit-in-residence since 1975, cites the following event as pivotal in his late-life decision to become an artist.

"When I was 4-years-old, my parents gave me a box of crayons and a pencil box. I promptly ate the crayons and stabbed my brother in the ear with a pencil. I can still see the polychrome abstraction flowing through the clear plastic tube as my stomach was pumped, and hear the howls of pain from little brother Randall.

"In retrospect, I realize that these were defining moments-the visual artist must frequently look inward for inspiration, and the act of creation can often be expurgatory and somewhat violent."

Nearly 40 years would pass before Rick sold his first painting at a downtown Juneau gallery in the early 1990s. What took so long?

"Life got in the way. Plus, I had wanted to be a writer, so I'd subjugated my ability to convey ideas in visual terms. And, as the absence of the sun in Juneau became more and more of an emotional issue for me, I realized that I would have to create my own color and light to nurture my psyche.

"Thus, the intensity of color in my paintings is inversely proportional to the weather-the greyer the day, the brighter my palette," Clair said.

The forests, mountains and maritime environs of southeast Alaska provide the backdrops for the imagery in Clair's paintings; panoramas or intimate scenes populated by creatures of mythology and make-believe-mermaids, earth goddesses, ravens, red bears.

"I never let reality get in the way of a good idea. Balanced color and good composition are the only important considerations."

Clair said that his entire artistic life, though brief, has been spent in isolation.

"I work in a vacuum," Clair said. "My studio is a hobbit-hole where others seldom venture."

But, he said, since life cannot exist in a vacuum, he is thankful that the artists at Juneau Artists Gallery have allowed him to join their talented and exclusive group.

"To be a successful artist requires that you also be a successful business person, which the artists at JAG have achieved. I'm an idiot when it comes to the nuts and bolts of art. I'm hoping that some of their business savvy rubs off on me," he said. In this respect, a dose of reality can be a good thing, Clair said.

The gallery is a shared endeavor of almost 30 local Juneau artists who own and operate it year round. Visitors and locals alike are invited to check out the local color on Friday, Aug. 3, as Clair presents his work and that of other local Juneau artists in the Senate Mall Building on S. Franklin St.