Fairbanks-based artist and Daily News-Miner columnist, Ray Bonnell, will display his art at The Fairbanks Community Museum during September. The show will mainly feature pen and ink drawings that have appeared in his column, “Sketches of Alaska.”

Ray has been tramping the back roads and trails of Interior Alaska for over 25 years, documenting (through photos, sketches and notes) its mining camps, homesteads, cemeteries and other sites. His goal has been to record a “snapshot in time” of these sites before time, vandals and development erase them from the landscape.

“Wickersham House” by Ray Bonnell

For the past two years he has also been writing a column in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner about historic sites around Interior Alaska. In September of 2011 he received the Alaska Historical Society’s “Contributions to Alaska History Award” for his column.

Ray grew up in the Northern Mines Region of California­-an area dotted with abandoned mines, hydraulic diggings and old cabins. He became interested in mining history and the aesthetics of decay as the works of man gradually merged back into nature, and was happiest tramping the hills, searching for arrowheads, stumbling across old mining equipment and exploring tumbled-down cabins.

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Graduating from Alaska Methodist University (now Alaska Pacific University) in 1974 with a BA in Anthropology and Art, he also did graduate studies in both those subjects at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. While at t AMU he became interested in Japanese art and studied the wabi-sabi aesthetic
that stresses the beauty of the “imperfect, impermanent and incomplete,” which resonated with his interest in the aesthetics of decay and transience.

This wabi-sabi influence can be seen in many of his drawings. He is still fascinated by the mouldering ruins of an old mining camp, a forgotten cemetery, even just a birch tree growing up through the rusted bottom of an old enameled wash basin. You can see additional examples of his art on his blog, “Sketches of
Alaska,” and on his website, Pingo Studio.

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