It’s hard to be a UAA student for any extended length of time without passing it. The 200 foot long rectangular slab of ice bounded by short white walls and tall glass in the Wells Fargo Sports Complex that comes to life whenever the Seawolves hockey team holds practice or teams in the community come to play there.
It was this cutout of ice — and the sport that it’s designed to house — that runs behind every piece of art featured in UAA professor Michael Conti’s solo exhibition “Stick and Puck,” currently on display at the Anchorage Museum.
The exhibition offers two very different perspectives on the game of hockey.
One room of the exhibition tells the story of late New York Ranger Derek Boogaard. Boogaard’s picture is silkscreened on flattened Moulsen Beer boxes painted and framed on the walls. Clear polyester resin hockey pucks containing human teeth and Percocet lie in the corner of the room. “Blood Sport” takes center stage in the center of the room. The miniature canvas ice rink is painted, silk screened, and treated with iron oxide and depicts the “gladiator culture” evident in many sports including hockey.
Conti learned of Boogaard’s death after watching a New York Times documentary.
“I just sat and watched that all the way through and I was like, ‘Wow, it’s tragic, but it’s also a great story.”
It was later discovered that Boogaard had sustained serious brain injuries from the countless times he fought as an N.H.L player leading to Boogaard developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Even though Conti was enthralled by the story, he didn’t want to “live in that whole world all the time.”
So for the other half of the exhibition, Conti shows off his photography work.
Shot against a black backdrop in vacant locker rooms, Conti captures straight-faced adult and youth female players shortly after they left the ice. In the middle of the room, a montage of scenes of just the puck and blade of a pond hockey player are projected on the floor. The scenes give the room a soothing atmosphere.
“Photographs of young women in hockey look to the future of the sport, and images of the experienced female players are a nod to what has already been accomplished,” said Conti in the Anchorage Museum’s description of the event.
Conti’s “Stick and Puck” exhibit is one of two solo exhibitions on display at the Anchorage Museum currently.
“It’s great to have high caliber artists in Alaska and its wonderful to have an opportunity to display that work for visitors to the museum,” said Laura Carpenter, a public relations manager at the museum.
There are two other Alaskan exhibitions currently on display at the Anchorage Museum including “Kill the Indian, Save the Man” and “All-Alaska Biennial.” All three will be open through April 10, 2016.
According to the 2014-15 USA Hockey registration report, there are well over 8,000 registered hockey players in the state of Alaska, the majority of which play in Anchorage.