• New public restrooms provide picturesque palette for artists
By Christina Whiting
Last year, the City of Homer built four block-construction public restrooms in town and on the Homer Spit. On the inside, these double, unisex restrooms are brightly lit, have heated floors and provide cold running water. On the outside — thanks to the City’s one percent for art program — they are adorned with mosaic art by Alaskan artists.
At the corner of Bartlett Street and Pioneer Avenue, Melisse Reichman’s relief sculptures include “Roaming the Land,” which features a bear, a wolf and a lynx. Her “Swirling Sea” piece showcases an otter swimming alongside kelp, sea stars and other aquatic wildlife.
Reichman’s sculptures were inspired by her adoration of wildlife, as well as her desire to depict a message of mutual respect between people and animals.
“I wanted to choose ambassador animals of the land and sea,” she said. “Animals that seemed essential and quintessential to Homer.”
Reichman said each mural took her several weeks to create. She drew the designs, made small models, and cut and carved slabs of insulation foam. After affixing them to treated plywood, she covered them with tinted cement and colored them with stains.
Owner of Nature Tale’s Studio, Reichman views herself as a multi-medium artist, working in whatever medium is needed to get the job done.
Reichman’s sculpture work and silver jewelry can be found in Homer’s Bunnell Street Arts Center. She is currently working on a large, outdoor sculpture that will find its home at the end of the Spit later this summer. It is also part of the one-percent for arts program.
“I love to participate in the great opportunities this town offers,” she said. “This restroom project was one way to share my creativity with the community.”
At the intersection of Heath Street and Pioneer Avenue, nestled near WKFL Park, Joshua Nordstrom’s tile mosaics of two dancing Sandhill Cranes and three landing cranes adorn the restroom’s exterior walls.
Nordstrom’s wife Lisa, a dancer, inspired the dancing crane piece. The landing cranes were fueled by Joshua’s desire to capture the realism of how cranes resemble an airplane when they land.
Each of the cranes is made from stone tile quartzite that Nordstrom hand cut. He estimates it took about 150 hours to complete.
Owner of Tierra Tile, Nordstrom is a tile installer by trade. He is currently transitioning from working with standard, porcelain tile squares to creating a niche for himself as a full-time mosaic installation artist, hand-cutting and shaping stone tiles.
“Mosaic work is like working on a puzzle for 100 hours,” he said. “Then, you’re finally able to put it all together and see what all the colors look like together.”
Wearing ear protection and a respirator while he works, Nordstrom’s art studio is a ventilated, well-lit 30-foot yurt. He begins by drawing patterns on paper, then cuts them out, traces the patterns over stone tiles and cuts the stones to shape using a tile saw.
In Homer, Nordstrom is known as the tile guy, creating mainly fishing boat scenes and nature scenes for homeowners. He is eager to extend his creativity outside of Homer.
“I eat, sleep and breathe this art,” he said. “This project seemed like the perfect canvas to publically display my art form.”
On the Homer Spit, Anchorage artist Sheila Wyne has two tile murals inspired by time she spent in Halibut Cove. She calls these pieces her “Reflection Series.”
The Danny J is featured on the restrooms at the newly paved End of the Road Park next to Land’s End. It depicts the reflection of the historic wooden boat that shuttles visitors and locals between Homer and Halibut Cove. At the deepwater dock — near the Homer Harbor where cruise ships tie up — Wyne’s Escher’s Stair shows the reflection of wooden stairs leading from a dock.
“When people think of art that is a reflection of Homer, they think big because the environment is so amazing,” she said. “I wanted to cue the viewer to pay attention to the smaller details found within the environment.”
Creating her murals using glass tile mosaics, Wyne utilized photographs of reflections she took. She reformatted them to fit into a horizontal framework, enlarged them to scale and hand cut the glass tiles to shape. She then affixed them to treated plywood and cement board, grouted them, and then adhered hundreds of tiles to the final panels. Wyne and her assistant, Sarah Whalen, spent close to 200 hours on the two pieces. Three individuals helped her during the installation process.
Wyne is a well-known and accomplished visual artist from Anchorage. Her work has been shown throughout Alaska, the Lower 48 and internationally, and she is the recipient of numerous awards and grants. Working in a variety of mediums, she creates public art installations, does studio work and designs sets for theater. She also participates in art intervention, with the goal of inspiring people to re-imagine what place is and how they relate to and understand it.
In Homer, Wyne has shown her work at Bunnell Street Arts Center, but The Danny J and Escher’s Stair are her first public works of art in Homer.
“So much art is shown in a gallery setting,” she said. “It’s fun to create a permanent outdoor installation that won’t come home with me at the end of the month.”
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