The theme of the February 2024 art show at the Gateway Gallery in the Gustavus Community Center is “In Celebration of Trees.”  I have two pieces in the show:  November Birch #2 and Summer Birch. Both these prints bring back wonderful memories of the years we spent in the boreal forests of the far north.  The Summer Birch art print was created from a photo taken on a walk in Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge in Fairbanks, located in Interior Alaska. There are trails throughout the refuge, some passing through thick stands of birch before looping along the edges of what used to be farm fields and now have become vast meadows hosting cranes and geese and swans during their spring and fall migrations. The November Birch art print was created from a photo taken while visiting a Fairbanks friend one year at Thanksgiving.  There is plenty of snow in Interior Alaska by November, and the Fairbanks area is normally quiet in terms of wind, which means snow often just sits on tree branches, no matter how small and thin.

Our sojourn in Fairbanks lasted nearly 15 years, much to our surprise… we had been planning on just three! It took about the first five years for me to come to terms with being there and to truly appreciate the special nature of that environment, the sub-zero temperatures and aurora borealis shining overhead on dark winter nights; but I came to love the birch forest most of all.  

Most birch growing in the Interior are Alaskan birch, different than paper birch, which grows in the northeast US and across the Great Lakes region. Alaskan birch are considered a pioneer species, one of the first to move in after the glacier has moved out, or in more recent times, after a forest fire. The gentle hills surrounding the city of Fairbanks and outlying neighborhoods are covered in these trees.  The magic of it shows each season with a carpet of color across the Alaska landscape: spring brings the fluorescent green of new leaves as they all emerge – amazingly – within a week’s time; summer and the rich green is thick and the leaves rustle in the slightest breeze; golden fall color  paints the hillsides with a broad brush, absolutely brilliant against the azure skies; and then in winter, the snow reflects the moonlight, which then bounces off the white birch bark so the whole forest glows in the dark. Once I tune in to the natural wonder of this feature in our new home, I am content to watch the seasons unfold, and the years fly by.

The complete show “In Celebration of Trees” is available for viewing during the month of February, 2024.  Check the Gustavus Community Center calendar of events for open hours.

Winter Wall Art by Alaskan Artist Lillian Ruedrich.  Love this print? Click here to purchase it now.  Enjoy it as a 5X7 blank notecard or 11X14 matted giclee print.