A new Homer artist who grew up sketching and painting in the Halibut Cove art scene now has her first solo gallery exhibit. Chelsea Horn’s “Playing With Color” opened last Friday at Fireweed Gallery.
While innovative and original, Horn’s paintings embody what Bunnell Street Arts Center director Asia Freeman called “a distinct Cove language” seen in the art of Marian Beck and the late Alex Combs.
Horn paints primarily landscapes, but in a style that has hints of the late 19th century post-impressionists, particularly Vincent Van Gogh. Parts of the scene appear realistic, as in a painting of the F/V Time Bandit, a Bering Sea crab fishing boat. Other parts have geometric or abstract shapes, such as a burst of orange flowing from the boat that become a crab.
“It’s abstract when compared to the original thing, but because of its energy in color and mark and shape conveys a quality of the living thing,” Freeman said.
Color and shapes seem to explode off the white walls at Fireweed Gallery. Some paintings show autumn scenes, like a golden yellow birch tree against a twilight night. Swirling stars evoke Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” Horn also uses a similar color palette in a painting of Grewingk Glacier. The rugged ice of the glacier’s terminus has rough edges and again the geometric angles.
“It’s quite vibrant but also kind of folksy,” Freeman said of Horn’s style. “There’s energy and passion.”
Horn, 32, grew up in Homer and Halibut Cove, the daughter of Carl and Tammy Jones. She remembered sketching as a little girl. She spent summers in the cove and used to deckhand for Clem Tillion.
“I’d get my deckhand chores done. I’d have a lot of time to sketch on my way back to the cove,” she said. “I grew up on the water. A lot of my water scenes reflect that.”
In the cove she lived near Combs.
“I’d go harass him and talk to him. He’d tell me to paint every day, and be creative every day,” Horn said.
Diana Tillion, Beck’s mother and considered one of the original artists of the Kachemak Bay arts scene, also influenced her, Horn said.
“She always encouraged me when I was a kid,” Horn said. “Telling me not to paint from photos, putting our emotions in it. I think those are huge influences on me.”
At Homer Middle School, seventh grade art teacher Linda Roark “was huge” in her inspiration. At Homer High School, Horn switched to pottery. Her teacher, Dan Bartos, also is someone she admired. Halibut Cove artists Beck, Sydney Bishop and Annette Bellamy also influenced her, she said.
The mother of three children ages 6, 8 and 13, Horn got back into art and painting several years ago when her landlady, Ina Jones, showed up with a box of old paint supplies. Horn lives at Mile 18 East End Road near the Jones family homestead and with a view of Bear Cove.
“I just started painting. It just took off,” Horn said.
Validation came a few years ago when Horn auctioned one of her paintings on Facebook as a fundraiser. That piece went for $2,800. Horn has an artist’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/ChelseaHornArt, where she shows much of her work. She’s been getting good feedback and encouraging words there. At first Horn said she was afraid to share her art.
“Something hit me to not be afraid. It’s better to share,” she said. “If somebody doesn’t like it, that’s fine with me.”
Horn said her painting is mostly self taught.
“Right now I’m pretty much teaching myself to paint as I go,” she said. “I like contrast, I like movement and I’m learning more about working with light. I really like light and bright colors.”
Like many artists, Horn said she doesn’t always know where she’s going when she starts a painting.
“If I get too set on an image in my head, I get mad at myself. I start painting and oh my gosh, this brush stroke just changed everything,” Horn said.
With three children, Horn steals time in the morning to paint while they’re at school. She credits her husband, Brian Horn, a carpenter, for supporting her work. He helps with hanging shows and packaging and shipping art sold online.
“He’s also really good at not asking me what I’m painting. He leaves me alone,” Horn said. “He’s wanting me to continue to paint. I have to say, he’s very encouraging. The dishes pile up and he does them … He’s a damn good husband.”
Horn has another show scheduled this summer at the Homer Council on the Arts. She’s also shown at the Bagel Shop and in the Halibut Cove Experience Gallery. The challenge with painting for shows means she has to hold off on selling paintings, but sometimes she has to sell a painting to buy a tube of paint — “the Homer run around,” she said.
After the March 3 First Friday opening, Horn called up Beck.
“I told her, ‘I might have a few too many commitments.’ She said, ‘That’s what keeps you going.’ She’s a very encouraging person for me.”
Horn also wants to do some more limited edition prints of her work, a project she did earlier. She also plans to hold retreats for artists to do plein air painting in Halibut Cove. They would share a water taxi ride and have coffee and tea at her parent’s place there.
Horn operated a boat for her father’s water taxi business, Bay Roamers, and still keeps her 100-ton license current. For now, she’ll keep painting.
“It’s good to keep busy,” Horn said. “I’m realizing winter time, I’m going to keep busy and go go go. In the summertime, I’m going to do more camping and fishing.”