Hot Rods and Opportunistic Horizons: the Work of Painter Marge Meyer | Culture & Leisure
Over the past 50 years I have lived in Anchorage, many businesses have disappeared or been bought out by outside chains. Muffler City & Brake (105 West 5th) is one of the few remaining family businesses. A great store for common people and auto enthusiasts, you can actually consult mechanics. Some working there are the children and grandchildren of the original owners, Marge and Al Meyer. Marge is an accomplished landscape artist, who can backlit mountains with oil paint, making the masses feel like they’ve been torn apart and have volume, as they come in and out of them. passing clouds.
Back-Story: In the mid-1950s, Marge and Al towed a 30-foot trailer down the Alaska Highway, planning to sell it in Anchorage. The profit margin would have been high enough to cover the return to Pasadena with the money remaining for the university. Back then, the Alcan was unpaved and alternated between dusty / gravel and liquid pudding when it rained. I know this because my husband David and I drove the Alaska Highway three times in the early ’70s, and it was life changing: isolation, bugs, moldy ham sandwiches and a mercurial road. , which tore our tires to shreds. Well the Meyers punctured / replaced so many tires they couldn’t afford to leave Anchorage, let alone the used trailer market. Thus, Al and pregnant Marge spent the winter in their trailer; their only swimming facilities were in the Mountain View mobile home park. However, they saved enough money to open their first store (Al Bill’s brother and wife Jean were co-owners) across from the Anchorage Times building (now the court offices), selling auto parts to- above the Polar hotel (demolished), with ‘ladies of the night’. As Marge happily relates, “Al had always worked on cars.” Their store (original United Auto) moved to 5th and A, increasing inventory to attract hotrod enthusiasts. Living for a time in the back of this store, which they shared with a soul food restaurant, barber shop, and pool hall, they then moved into the old Chrysler dealership building, in the across the street, which continues to be the home of Muffler City. . At one time, the Meyers owned nine auto stores from Anchorage to Kenai and even toy and stereo stores in the old Sears Mall. Marge recalled: “the phonograph has stopped selling.”
After the 1964 earthquake, Marge and her four children wintered for several years in California; Al stayed in Anchorage, commuting every six weeks. It was then that she and several friends formed a painting group in Costa Mesa. Marge recalls: “I never took art classes in elementary school; I didn’t think I could draw.
Marge must have had a knack for recognizing the design because, upon her return to Alaska, she and Al purchased the “1966, Harpel Residence II” located in College Village. Bill Harpel, who started KHAR radio in 1961, died in a snowmobile accident in 1968. Harpel had hired architect John Lautner (1911-1994) an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright, to design a unique Anchorage house of its kind, which allowed minimal winter sunlight and views of the Chugach Mountains to penetrate. ‘Life Magazine’, 1967, featured the Alaska Harpel House, where the Meyers entertained many DC Democrats like Hubert Humphrey and locals like Mike Gravel and Bill Sheffield. Back in Anchorage, Marge took a drawing class at UAA and attended several of Bob Ross’s early art clinics, when Ross was stationed in Fairbanks, and was not yet a celebrity.
Marge and Al started watching the snowbirds in Palm Springs; they have been in the sun longer and longer over the decades. Skilled at rendering mountains, Marge says she enjoys painting Alaskan rocks above the San Jacinto Mountains in California. Four landscapes in this essay define Meyer’s long career in oils that reveal contrasting hues, opposing textures, and respect for the environment, as we are all stewards of the earth.
Alaska Landscape # 1: This horizontal work on three levels, with two brown outcrops in the foreground and in the middle, is reflected in the meanders of the blue-green water, while becoming reflections on the conifers, located at the top of these rocky masses. A row of fir trees along the beach in the background merges into the darker green / mauve lower slopes. Climbing the jagged peaks, a specialty of Meyer, the purple mountains contrast beautifully with the turquoise waters that meander below. The snow-capped upper peaks, with a hint of purple hues, are backlit by a cloudy sky, whose pale blues bring out the bare patches of this final row of mountains.
Alaska Landscape # 2: Bathed in a veil of autumnal mist, fireweed has peaked, while the meandering stream anticipates its mantle of ice. Some strange rocks in the foreground / right spar with the jagged peaks and valleys of the mountainous background, uniting the composition. The viewer should optically exit the lowlands and follow the stream to the lower blue / purple hills, above the trees and velvety green bogs of the middle ground, thus completing the fireweed, which protrudes above the foreground. Snow-capped mountains in the background float in and out almost unnoticed, between moving clouds of the same color value.
Palm Springs Landscape # 1: It’s like a scene from a sci-fi movie where the barren land adds ambiguity to the oddly clad aliens. No aliens here, so the landscape has to improvise. A large brown chasm depresses the desert, becoming an inverted mountain, fighting with the chain in the background. Sometimes the California desert receives enough rain to bloom, and dormant leaves and flowers suddenly appear, as Marge puts it vividly. In the foreground, yellows, oranges, and olive greens collide with the purple mountains in the background, as does the verdant terrain atop the sandy surface. This grainy beige golden mean is necessary to glue all the different optical experiences together.
Palm Springs Landscape # 2: When the desert blooms, the colors explode. A variety of primary colors and textures can be seen in the foreground among the scattered rocks, which optically merge with the mountains in the background. However, it is the reddish plants in the foreground, reflected in the sand and the purple mountain background, that unite and dazzle this work. The backlit blue sky brightens the heavy mountain masses, coordinating with a small patch of blue plants in the foreground to the right, while contrasting with the lemony and light olive greenery in the middle.
Marge continues to commute between Anchorage and Palm Springs. She is a member of the California Art Club (founded 1909) and devours art magazines like ‘Art of the West’ and tech videos, while paying homage to the famous Sydney Laurence (1865-1940) of Alaska.
Jean Bundy is a writer / painter in Anchorage. She sits on the board of directors of the AICA-Int.