Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Arts Outlook


July 29, 2021

A piece of sheet music dating to around 1440 will be one of the books and manuscripts on display at The Bookstore during First Friday, Aug. 6.

Display of antiquarian books

Haines reporter and writer Tom Morphet will display a collection of antiquarian books at The Bookstore as part of the Aug. 6 First Friday events.

Books and manuscripts include sections of church hymnals hand-written on sheepskin dating to Burgundy, France at about the year 1450, a medical text from 1565, a world atlas dating to 1759, and penmanship workbooks from the late 1700s.

The books and manuscripts were collected by Morphet's late father Norm Morphet, a career research librarian who frequented thrift shops and antique stores. Another research librarian, who was Morphet's supervisor, acquired some of the older, religious texts during a visit to Europe.

"My dad was a collector of all kinds of stuff, but he wasn't much for provenance," Morphet said this week. "Quite frankly, I have no idea where most of it came from, but an antiquarian book dealer who looked at them didn't doubt their authenticity."

Morphet said that for years he wrongly assumed the books had monetary value, but learned differently after his father's death. "The antiquarian book dealer offered us $100 for one of the medical texts. He told us that medical doctors at one time were interested in owning these books, but not so much anymore."

Like vintage stamps and coins, high price tags are attached to items in mint condition or that have a certain historical significance. Morphet said that the books in the collection don't meet those standards. "Another clue should have been that my dad didn't like to spend much money, so if he bought anything of real value, it was likely an accident."

Also, such books apparently are not so rare in Europe. "Here in Alaska, we tend to think of anything 500 years old as ancient, but we forget that overseas people are living in 1,000-year-old houses and driving on 2,000-year-old roads," he said.

The books are interesting for capturing a body of human knowledge at a certain date in time, he said.

For example, the atlas printed in 1759 predates British scientist Edward Jenner's creation of the first vaccine, for smallpox in 1801, but notes some observations on immunology in an atlas listing about the Amazon region of South America.

"It is remarkable, that the small-pox... which raged like a contagion in 1743, is more fatal to the Indians of the mission, newly drawn out of the woods, and who go naked, than to the Indians who are clothed, and who were born, or have dwelt a long time among the Portuguese," the listing says.

At the time, smallpox was spreading into the Americas and killed one of three people who contracted it, and seriously scarred many survivors. The disease was considered eradicated in 1980.

Morphet said he was told that hand-printed hymnals, created in monasteries, were among the most common books in medieval Europe, often written in honor of local saints or other religious dignitaries. They were brought out during annual feast days for townspeople to sing or chant from them.

The oldest pieces in the collection were printed on vellum, or sheepskin, as paper didn't come to Europe until the 1300s, and Johannes Gutenberg of Germany didn't invent the first modern printing press, starting a revolution of books and learning, until 1440.

Interestingly, copies of early books often had very different covers, as book-printing and book-binding were separate businesses for centuries. "A person would buy a book from a printer as a collection of pages, then go and find a book-binder to bind it up and put a cover on it," Morphet said.

Great Paint Out set

The Great Paint Out will be held Saturday, Aug. 28 at Chilkoot Lake State Park.

Now in its fifth year, the event is a local rendition of a national event sponsored by Oil Painters of America and encourages artists of all ages and abilities to spend an afternoon together creating art in the outdoors, said organizer Donna Catotti.

"Everybody does whatever they want. The end product isn't necessarily even a finished work. It's for study, for fun, and a chance for artists to inspire each other," Catotti said. Though billed as a painting event, sketching and other art mediums are welcome, she said. "If you could get a bear to stand still, you could do a sculpture."

Participants should bring a water bottle, lunch and art supplies to the state campground and meet for coffee at the picnic gazebo there at 10 a.m. For four hours, artists are encouraged to find spots along the river and lakeshore to create their works.

"We've usually painted together but there's so much room to spread out there that everyone can spread out and go wherever they want," Cattoti said, cautioning that participants need to be mindful of bears and stow food in cars or other safe locations.

"We'll spread out and paint and then get back together and see what we've done," Catotti said. Although not intended as art instruction, beginners wanting to pick up some tips also can set up next to more experienced artists, she said.

Previous locations for the event have included Paradise Cove, Chilkat State Park, Picture Point and the front yard of Catotti's Mud Bay home.

A rain date is set for Aug. 29 or, if necessary, the following weekend.

Catotti and Haines artist Yuko Hays will be demonstrating still life painting at the Southeast Alaska State Fair this weekend. Catotti said she also expects to resume Studio Incamminati sessions next summer.

The annual, week-long session of portrait painting in Haines was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19.

Abstract painting exhibit

Since her family bought a local campground earlier this year, Christine Duncan has spent long stretches on a deck overlooking Lutak Inlet, absorbing her new surroundings. She's also been fishing and hiking.

Watercolor representations of her experience will be shown in "Shades of Haines," an exhibit of abstract art at the Port Chilkoot Distillery on First Friday, 4-8 p.m. Aug. 6. Her work also can be found at Ampersand AK.

Duncan, 40, is self-taught and calls herself an "emerging artist." Her work has been shown in galleries in Gilbert, Ariz. and Alberta, Canada. Born in Canada, she recently lived in New Mexico and outside Tucson, Ariz.

Duncan said her pebbly, mosaic images at the distillery might be seen as a riverbed or however a viewer wishes to envision them. She calls the paintings an exploration of color and shape, with subtle shifts of color representing the area's ever-changing moods and the effect of those changes on the psyche of a person living here.

"I use my art as a form of meditation. It just happens kind of naturally," she said. She also makes jewelry using natural, local materials including stone and driftwood.

Although she also will be exhibiting some larger pieces, most of Duncan's watercolor works are page-size and offered with or without gold-foil accents. She also will have them available matted in a clear sleeve for easy framing. Duncan's Instagram site is @christineduncanart.

Local painter says farewell

Bev Schupp, a Haines-based painter of Alaska and Yukon landscapes in acrylics and oils, is moving on. Fans of her work get a chance to see her off at Ampersand Alaska during First Friday, starting 5 p.m. on Aug. 6.

A former art teacher in the Alaska bush, Schupp and her husband, a commercial fisherman, moved to Haines from McGrath 25 years ago, setting up woodworking and art studios on the Small Tracts Spur Road.

They're heading north again to the Alaska Interior, relocating to Ester.

Although she worked in such places as Shageluk and Nicolai, Schupp said she was too busy teaching to create much art of those places. Instead, her work has focused heavily on the Chilkat Valley and surrounding areas, including the Yukon Territory.

Schupp and fellow Haines painter Karen Bryant have traveled together on area highways, capturing scenes. They once spent a day atop the dome at Dawson City, Y.T., painting the Yukon River valley. "Bev has a variety of art and she does beautiful work. She does a good job capturing the feeling of the North," Bryant said.

Artist Christine Duncan's works will be displayed at the distillery Aug. 6.

Although landscape painters can work from photographs, Schupp says an artist can "see a lot more information" on location, including details, gradations of light and shadow, and weather changes.

Comparatively, photos offer a "flat" image, she said.

Besides landscapes, Schupp paints still lifes and portraits. She has also worked in watercolors, sewing, quilting, wall-hangings and collage. Her work includes portraits of pets. "She can capture the personality of a person's pet," Bryant said. "That's something I've never even attempted."

Grant nominees sought

The Sheldon Museum is looking to purchase art by local artists through the Rasmusen Art Acquisition Grant. Art must be created in Alaska in the last five years by an artist currently living in Alaska. For more information, contact the museum at 766-2366 or


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