Artist brings to life the town of Talkeetna in artwork

Artist captures spirit of Talkeetna in artwork
Published: Mar. 15, 2022 at 11:50 AM AKDT
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TALKEETNA, Alaska (KTUU) - The Talkeetna Historical Society and Museum is now the permanent home to the Jim Gleason art piece, “A Spirit of Talkeetna.”

Gleason was a local artist in Talkeetna who was known for his watercolor paintings and his carvings. His creation was pieced together in the late 2000s, according to museum officials, and captures a piece of the town’s soul.

“It shows a perfect scene of Talkeetna,” Sue Deyoe, the executive director for the museum, said.

The piece is a diorama of the town, featuring over 100 hand-carved figurines and buildings.

“He basically carved day and night. He never stopped carving. For months and months and months, maybe even years,” Deyoe said.

The diorama falls against a painting by Curt Wagner of the Alaska Range depicted during the fall.

Gleason’s piece is divided into two parts: half of the piece is shown the summer season, and the other half in winter, giving the artist an opportunity to show the town’s lifestyle from one season to another.

“He depicted the Moose Dropping Festival parade, which was the second Saturday in July of every year,” Deyoe said. “... The winter scene is all about the Wilderness Woman’s contest, which started to occur back in the ‘80s or so.”

Additionally, Deyoe said, each figurine carving represents someone in the community that has played an integral role.

“You actually know exactly who the people are. He put the expression on their faces, or their hair or clothing so well, actually, that everybody can point out and know which ones, who is who,” Deyoe said.

Along with featuring town traditions and characters, the piece also presents historical elements of the town, ranging from the 1970s to the present day.

“There used to be a gas station in town and he depicted that,” Deyoe said. “... Some of these things he is depicting 10 years ago.”

It has helped play a part in providing a unique new way of preserving the town’s history.

“The museum is really all about preservation of all our history, and so this is just one of those examples of perfect things that we have that depicts art and our community,” Deyoe said.

The Talkeetna Historical Society and Museum said that the piece will remain in the museum going forward. They do expect the potential of doing a remodel of the building in the next few years. Deyoe said the piece will be temporarily removed during the remodeling process but will return shortly after.

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