On Arctic Ice: Fred Machetanz
June 12 – September 6, 2010
Working in the isolated wilderness, Fred Machetanz (1908–2002) produced a body of work that encapsulates the snowcapped mountains and brilliant light of Alaska. On Arctic Ice: Fred Machetanz showcases a selection of stone lithographs produced between 1946 and 1980 that depict the flora, fauna, and people of America’s northernmost state.
Settling in the Matanuska Valley in the early 1950s, Machetanz and his family lived in a cabin northeast of Anchorage in Palmer, Alaska. His artworks are based on outdoor observation and photographs taken during his arctic travels. Machetanz produced multiple books, including On Arctic Ice (1940), films, a wealth of paintings, and fifty lithographic works, a full set of which were purchased for the Frye Art Museum by former director Ida Kay Greathouse.
Machetanz’s lithographic process began with a Bavarian limestone. After tracing an initial drawing onto the stone’s surface, he reworked the image with a greasy lithographic crayon. The artist then sent his stones to a New York printer, who, upon completing the printing process, ground the drawings off the stones. Machetanz often explained that his interest in lithography stemmed largely from a desire to capture the nuances of light and dark: “There is a feeling about a lithograph . . . You have to have an interesting and strong pattern of dark and light. When you put tones together right you get greys, that, when contrasted with black and white, feel very rich.”
Following his first solo show at the Anchorage-Westward Hotel in1962, Machetanz was honored with exhibitions throughout the Pacific Northwest, including a solo exhibition at the Frye in 1973. Named Alaskan of the Year in 1977, Machetanz continued to create images of the luminous and rugged North until his death in 2002.