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Zerbetz linocut exhibit to open at Main Street Gallery
Linocut artist Evon Zerbetz stands for a portrait on Wednesday at her studio south of town. Staff photo by Dustin Safranek

Daily News Staff Writer

Ketchikan artist Evon Zerbetz will unveil her Main Street Gallery exhibition “Merge: Four Linocut + Mixed Media Installations” Friday evening.

Zerbetz said, while inking linocuts and rolling them through her press in her home studio, that she is aiming for the show to have an element of surprise to it — not only for gallery visitors, but also for herself. She explained, while pulling countless prints of crisp, black and white butterflies, that although she had a vision for her installation, she wouldn’t really know what the final exhibit would look like until she was finishing it, right before the opening.

“The main purpose of the show is to get to experiment and just take some risks,” she said. “I’m usually on deadline, where I need to produce and solve maybe someone’s problem with art — very maybe specific goals. This was sort of a chance to treat the gallery a little bit like an incubator, which is what I think it’s really good at — having this place where we can experiment.”

Zerbetz has a long list of career accomplishments. Her linocut prints have graced several children’s books, and most recently, “Dream Flights on Arctic Nights,” by Brooke Hartman.

I just love working in the book format,” Zerbetz said. “Sometimes, I have the most fun with the simplest manuscripts because I can invent things and make a little more story.”

 Locally, her brilliant prints and three-dimensional works are featured in Tatsuda’s IGA, Fawn Mountain Elementary School, Ketchikan Public Library, Schoenbar Middle School’s library — just to name a few.

She said the work she is most proud of is the big glass wall installation in Juneau that separates the Alaska State Library and the state archives offices. The glass panel glows with brilliant depictions of the “story makers” and the “story collectors,” where a kayaker and a flying figure weave among multiple animals and insects.

“That was sort of the pinnacle of my career,” Zerbetz said.

She has traveled twice to Germany in the past several years to work extensively with glass artists there. Some of the resulting works from her most recent trip will be on display in her May exhibition.

In preparation for her upcoming show, Zerbetz has printed hundreds of images of mostly butterflies, with some moths and small tornados. She said she plans to use them to create a larger installation, using a metal frame she designed with metal worker Rich Stage, who has collaborated with her before.

“For me, in the last decade or so, my sort of thing has been to be figuring out ways to use my linocuts and my press and to be making large works, and how to build larger things out of my linocuts,” Zerbetz said.

She added, in reference to pulling together her upcoming exhibit, “I’m going to be making some constructions — I have no idea if it’s going to work. I don’t think I will know until I am putting it together.”

She said she was printing the butterfly images, mostly because she is fascinated by them, and concerned about their declining numbers.

The tornado images, she said, have long been of interest to her.

“To me, it’s about life cycle,” Zerbetz said, seeing them as symbolizing a “create, sustain, destroy” pattern typical to all life.

“Actually, ‘destroy’ is sort of the most exciting point in this cycle,” she said. “Because, that’s when something brand new opens up.”

She said her art reflects her deep curiosity about the world.

“I just get so curious about everything that I see,” Zerbetz said.

Speaking of her new show, she explained, “Some of the things are going to feel really disparate, but I’m finding these threads that actually sort of intrigue me, and I don’t know if anyone else will see them. I might have some really personal feelings in these works, and people might not pick up on them, but I think it will be really fun to see if those conversations happen.”

She continued, “There’s going to be weird themes that actually come back to the other installations.”

Zerbetz said she will be sharing a creation in the exhibition that has been part of a life-long passion — something she’s never shared in a public forum before — a handmade book documenting memories of her recent trip to Germany.

She said she always has loved making the little books based on her travels, packed full of bits of maps, tickets, drawings and other memorabilia, but she never before has shared them with the public. Her newest book will be on display at the gallery exhibit.

“What I really get intrigued with is that 150 years ago, there were no photographers, and people weren’t taking snapshots everywhere, and everything was documented in watercolor,” Zerbetz explained.

“It’s a simple show, I think,” she said. “I want people to come in and sort of make up their own mind about it.”

“Merge: Four Linocut + Mixed Media Installations” will offer an opening reception from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, at the Main Street Gallery, located at 330 Main St. The exhibit will be on display through May 31.

Zerbetz also will give a presentation at 12:10 p.m. to 12:50 p.m., May 9, at the gallery. She will show slides from her travels in Germany, as well as offer a chance for conversation about her artistic adventures there.