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Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Artist View: David Mollett

David Mollett's paintings of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are ghostly. His broad brush strokes and rapid work habits produce paintings that read like next morning's flicker of a dream.

Mollett, an assistant professor of art at University of Alaska-Fairbanks, has been visiting and painting ANWR since 1988. "Within minutes of arriving ... on my first trip, I knew I'd found an incredible place to paint," he says.

His paintings are completed "in the field" using quick-drying alkyd paints on canvas. So the finished images you see are about as close to the mind's eye of a painter as the viewer is likely to get.

Mollett's subjects are entirely landscapes, but he doesn't shy from seemingly monotonous subjects like pack ice on Beaufort Sea, which becomes a rainbow of dreamy shapes on his canvas.

What's striking about all his ANWR work is the vastness of color. Detractors call the refuge a "desert" and a "wasteland." But Mollett, who also owns the Well St. Gallery in Fairbanks, makes clear there is all kinds of life that gives color to the refuge.

"Very few people have been to the refuge, and the public has almost no idea what the place looks like," he writes. "My goal has been to demonstrate that the high Arctic is not a barren wasteland, and to draw attention to and preserve the beauty of the Arctic Refuge."

He has certainly done that, at least on canvas.

You can see more of Mollett's work here.