Babes in the Woods gallery a fresh take on art

Tucked away inside the Ship Creek Center, recently opened gallery Babes in the Woods celebrated their second First Friday show, “Unexpected Palpitations.” The gallery featured vibrant paintings and beadwork by Katie Sevigny and Bonnie Wendt.

Babes in the Woods is home to an assortment of organic printed shirts, framed photography and handcrafted jewelry. The gallery is small, but its vintage interior and warm orange walls are inviting. A wooden vanity table and surrounding shelves are decorated with colorful pendants and small glass vases, as ambient lighting highlights black-and-white prints.

Fragrant candles wafted throughout the room as First Friday guests and other artists slowly began wandering in, their murmuring about the pieces observed quickly filling the empty space.

Locals may recognize co-owners Shelbi Lynne Laughlin-Kenney and Samantha Geuss, who sold their work individually before opening Babes in the Woods. Both the women were optimistic about sharing their new endeavor.

The gallery’s name is a metaphor, empowering and addressing the multi-faceted nature of Alaska women, Geuss said.

Although the gallery will feature mostly local female artists, they will accept art from male artists. Geuss added that their gallery will help to showcase people with little exposure.

Laughlin-Kenney’s own exposure to the community comes mainly from her jewelry business, Pullin’ Dandelions. She said that setting up the equipment at annual craft fairs and holiday shows becomes tiring.

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“Every time we do a show, we schlep around stuff. So we thought, let’s try to open a spot of our own,” Laughlin-Kenney said.

Recently, new galleries and clothing boutiques have been taking up residence in the Ship Creek Center. The mall has put forth continual efforts since last year to expand business and give the long-standing building a face-lift.

“Ship Creek is in a state of rejuvenation, with new shops that fling up,” Geuss said. “It’s a cool time to be here.”

Laughlin-Kenney became serious about beadwork three years ago. As a lamp worker, Laughlin-Kenney is able to craft her own style of glass beads. Her jewelry is finely crafted with Druk glass beads, natural gemstones and freshwater pearls. Earrings cost about $12-18, while necklaces range from $30-100. Laughlin-Kenney’s signature pieces are wire earrings made of small fishing lures, which stems from her being a fisherwoman from Palmer.

Geuss is a photographer and owner of Alder Patch Art Photography. Her framed prints stretch across the gallery’s walls, while a few lie upright on shelves. Her colored photographs, including one of a shadowed figure looking across the water, show a clear appreciation for Alaska nature and the outdoors.

“It’s nostalgic. I try to capture the ambiance and the nature of things,” she said.

The gallery also sells calendars featuring Geuss’s work for $10, as well as a large selection of her signature greeting cards. But Geuss said her current kick is emulsion transfers.

Vintage glass vases and bottles are printed with semi-transparent photographs by using a technique called Polaroid Emulsion Transfer. By boiling emulsion prints, Geuss transfers her images onto a variety of glass. The pieces range from $20-60.

She added that the glasswork is functional and has a one-of-a-kind result in photography, similar to the selection of jewelry pieces offered by Laughlin-Kenney.

A selection of thin organic shirts and tote bags are printed with the Babes in the Woods logo, a combination of the two owners’ individual businesses. Also included in the image of dandelions and a bee is the quote “Barefoot and Blissful,” a catchphrase for their Alaskan appeal.

While First Friday guests mingled, Geuss and Laughlin-Kenney greeted many as familiar faces.

One of those familiar people was UAA anthropology professor Phyllis Fast. She is also a local artist, focusing on mixed media and paintings.

Fast said that Laughlin-Kenney was a student of hers and that this was her first time visiting Babes in the Woods.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Fast said. She and local artist Bill Kaiana were at the Ship Creek Center to view the other First Friday openings, but Geuss had previously approached Kaiana about including his fine art for her calendar.

Although Kaiana had not submitted anything yet, he said Geuss’s outreach to other artists is progressive to have in the art community.

Whether someone is a First Friday enthusiast or casual gallery visitor, Babes in the Woods is ideal for creative handcrafted jewelry and fine arts made in Alaska.

Babes in the Woods is located in Studio 10 of the Ship Creek Center on 333 West 4th Ave. The gallery is open from Tuesday – Saturday, noon-4 p.m.