Another First Friday has come and gone in Anchorage. October 1 had its share of scattered showers throughout the night, but the overcast did not stop the “art crowd” (wine-sipping, cheese-eating liberals) from coming to the numerous shows. With so much to choose from, publications like the Press are useful with their First Friday times and locations page, but anyone can wonder downtown Anchorage from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and discover the galleries for themselves.

My first stop on the art trudge this month: Octopus Ink Gallery. The shop offers a limited line of clothing that is “inspired by nature.” So, if you would like a T-shirt with a crab or jellyfish printed onto it, look no further. I personally think hoodies with Homeless Bill printed on them would be much more exciting and wearable, but I am a diehard Bill fan.

The shop featured recent paintings and pottery by Anchorage artist Mark T. Stewart, aka Stew. His show was appropriately titled “Bikes Beer and Beyond,” with the comma omitted intentionally. He must have been heavily drinking. The paintings—a number of which were painted on old cupboard doors of various sizes—used four to five colors at the most. The paintings I had set my sights upon used oranges, yellows and blues. “Going Growler II” by Stew had bubbles floating up to a light-blue background, ascending away from a darker black and orange surface, upon which a growler and glass o’ beer rested. The piece definitely seemed to hold drinking-infused inspiration, almost as if the viewer is experiencing external beer goggles when looking at the painting. “South Light” depicted an elder man using the previously stated colors. The man appeared to be at peace with bubbles floating past his head. Perhaps he had just gone growler.

“Beer Bike II,” which was painted on a larger cupboard panel, shared the same surreal atmosphere as Stew’s other paintings. The artist’s description of these groups of paintings was that “cyclical changes of light, temperature and terrain inspire my art. Hard lines, solid forms and a flurry of colors… The colors are representational of the chaos which flows by my periphery, as I churn, ascend and descend through my surroundings.” Obviously, I began to think, this guy is drunk and riding his bike around town, which is a very common occurrence in Germany. Drunk, maybe not, but drinking, most definitely.

“I am a year-round bike commuter,” Stew said. “These paintings were inspired by biking around Anchorage in extreme conditions.” I had to ask him if he drank beer and rode his bike. “Yes,” he replied, smiling with a glass of white wine in his hand. Pointing to a nearby painting he continued, “That one in particular was inspired by my New Year’s Eve. I rode the coastal trail that night with a growler strapped to my back. It was negative 7 degrees, and my friends and I would stop and take drinks whenever are hands became to numb to continue without a short break.” The painting was titled “Beer Bike III.” The smaller painting was simple enough: a growler behind the handlebars of a bike. Oh, what joy. College-aged art students should take note of this symbolism and begin painting cans of Coors behind the wheel of a Ford truck, plowing 60 miles per hour down the New Seward Highway during a heavy snowfall; a more fitting image to an Anchorage hooligan’s New Year’s Eve celebration.

As a crowd of adoring fans called on Stew’s attention, I remained in front of the paintings. I pondered the energy its takes to ride a bike around town during the cold winter months mixed with loss of coordination that is often associated with beer consumption. A musician began playing violin in the background and people stood and watched the young musician, cozy in their fleece jackets and hemp caps. Beers, bikes… And violin.

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