What began as an impulse to learn to paint has blossomed into a new extension of life for hotel owner and retired commercial fish harvester Sylvia Lange.
“I can’t write a $2,000 to $3,000 check, but I can paint. It makes me feel good to contribute to the cause,” said Lange, whose art now sells commercially for up to several thousand dollars.
Lange, who owns The Reluctant Fisherman hotel in Cordova with spouse Greg Meyer, began painting in earnest in 2012, after enrolling in a class in Palm Springs, CA. At the time she was taking care of her mother, Mae Lange, and helping to organize a fundraiser for the Eyak Foundation. Prior to that her drawings were in pen and ink.
“I’ve always loved art,” she said. “I would take classes whenever I could. As a young woman she studied at five colleges, including the University of Washington and the University of New Mexico, but fishing was very lucrative and she kept coming back to Alaska to fish commercially. While she doesn’t look back and regret much of anything, Lange said she still rues not getting a degree..
Meanwhile, her passion for and experience as an artist continues to grow.
Most recently she contributed nearly a dozen paintings for an Eyak Foundation benefit at the Snow City restaurant in Anchorage.
A painting she donated to the Prince William Sound Science Center’s annual Copper River Nouveau fundraiser brought in $3,000 and another for First Alaskans attached to the Smokehouse Gala painting garnered a $4,000 bid. Along with the painting for the Smokehouse Gala, Lange added an art class for up to six people in Anchorage.
When the Native Village of Eyak’s Ilanka Cultural Center asked if they could purchase two of her paintings over a year ago, Lange agreed. Recently Museums Alaska, using a fund created by the Rasmuson Foundation, awarded the Ilanka Cultural Center $1,000 to support the acquisition of those paintings, Raven Catching Some Rays and Young Eagle Dreams.
“Nowadays I try to paint every day,” said Lange, who serves on the board of First Alaskans and is a member of the Eyak Foundation. “I don’t need more time,” she said. “I need a deadline.
“I have to be real careful these days not to overpromise (paintings). I actually take more time for my paintings than I used to, so I have to remember not to overcommit.”
Animals and people are the focus of her work, with lots of color.
“I especially love ravens,” said Lange, part of the Raven Moiety from Yakutat, where her Tlingit maternal grandmother was born. Her direct Alaska Native heritage stems from her Tlingit mother from Katalla.
The size of her paintings vary, from three foot by four foot to 16 feet by 20 feet. Recently she completed another three-foot by four-foot painting for her hotel.
“I get to create colors and away I go; it’s the alchemy of colors,” she said.