| It’s just an old barn next to a busy road. Four tall walls and galvanized metal for a roof. Logs make the structure’s base. Main body finished with milled lumber. It stands empty and watches cars go by. |
Built as a workhorse, a pioneer during the beginnings of agriculture in Fairbanks. Now it leans and sways and shows daylight where it shouldn’t. But the boards have aged handsomely sporting a fine grain of oranges and browns like an expensive tweed jacket. A well used jacket with patches. o
Front door ran off a long time ago leaving a light orange scar to the right of the opening. It must have been a stormy affair with a windy suitor that left it in ruins after making false promises.
Barn stands solemnly watching fields still being worked. Glory days remembered when it could show those young whippersnappers a thing or too about farming. Proud metal roof still protects it from snow. Glaring back at fierce winter storms, shakes a defiant silvery fist in triumph.
But wait, there is another building very close. A shy little log cabin. It’s easy to overlook because it’s slowly sinking into the soft muck of permafrost. These two were partners before there were new-fangled automobiles whizzing by on the road in front of them.
Boards rock back and forth. Wind whistles though their tired rumpled bones telling the same stories over and over in scratchy voices. These two sourdough pioneer buildings sit together and rock away their days.
Who Built the Barn and Cabin?
His name was Desjardins. Desjardins means ‘the gardens’ in French. Charles Dejardins was French-Canadian. He spent his savings on a train ride from St. Arsene, Quebec to Alaska with plans to make his fortune in the 1898 gold rush. He almost starved but landed in Fairbanks. The last stop before returning home in defeat.
An idea occurred to him and it grew into a cabin and barn outside of town. He noticed it took months for food to reach Fairbanks. In 1910 steamers and riverboats couldn’t bring fresh greens without spoiling. But Charles Desjardins could grow them. He found his gold in the soil, cultivating it. Fresh green produce.
He chose a fine parcel of land and cleared the trees. Built a tiny log cabin so it would be easy to keep warm. The barn took more time. Started with a log base and finished the structure with milled lumber until it stood stately behind his cabin in triumph.
Charles brought nuggets of wisdom about farming from his home in Quebec. Profits from his first mother lode of fresh produce (plus hay for their horses) set him up for the winter. Lush greens were a precious commodity to his adopted Fairbanks community.
One hundred years later, bare bones of barn and cabin still stand at 2.5 mile Farmers Loop Road in Fairbanks. Boards sag and groan with memories of long, cold, lonely winters followed by intense grueling hard work during summer days.
These building remnants aren’t a sad sight. Not at all. They are a symbol of accomplishment. A flag of encouragement. Symbolic of the Alaskan spirit that endures hardship and succeeds against impossible odds.
Charles found his gold by providing for the people in his community.
I wrestle with bears, dream of cranes and paint things that surprise me. Motion holding still.
Making art allows me to see things differently.
Paintings are windows into wild.
See your world in a new way.
Celebrate Alaska’s wild that is in each of us.
Find your wild.
A Dream Fulfilled
48″ x 60″ Kroma paint on canvas by Raven
Sometimes you have an idea that doesn’t make sense but you have to explore it. You could list all the reasons it won’t work. but why bother? You know you have to try it.
Just begin and see where it goes.
I can’t explain the concept. I don’t know how it is going to work. It is only a sketchy rough feeling kind of idea. Find symbols and shapes to represent all of their eight different radio stations. Make them interact and form a painting full of energy, hope and promise.
I reasearch their history. KFAR went on air in 1939 with the tallest self supporting tower in North America! During the early days of Alaska aviation, pilots set their homing beacons on 660 AM to help guide them back to Fairbanks. Austin “Cap” (short for Captain) Lathrop’s vision was to broadcast to the whole interior of Alaska. He invested in a transmitter 10 times bigger than he needed for Fairbanks.
What if his dream was actually much bigger? What if…
My painting begins with swoops of orange lines on canvas. Five feet by four feet of stretched canvas. Held up by two ladders because it is too massive for even my largest easel.
Story emerges as paint flows. Words grow on a sheet of note paper within arms reach. Story and painting grow together for several weeks.
Story changes the painting. Painting changes the story.
Finally it makes sense in a crazy fun sort of way and I laugh.
Delivery day for the painting. Squeeze the large canvas at an angle into the back of my Toyota Four Runner and dash to my appointment. Fortunately, the station manager understands crazy-fun-wonderfullness of story and dreams. He finds symbols in the painting that I didn’t realize are there. He chooses to immediately hang his painting on the wall.
Stop by 529 5th Avenue, Suite 200 when you are in Fairbanks and find the painting in their lobby. You won’t miss it.
I hope you will be energized to plunge forward with your impossible dreams. Let me know when you decide to make real your galaxies of impossibilities.
I’ll be cheering for you.