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2016-08-22 07:03:40

Alaska artist Ray Troll showing paintings in the Lower 48 ANCHORAGE, Alaska Ray Troll has something going on right now that happens to very few Alaska artists a big show at a big museum in a big city in the Lower 48. Trilobites, like this one in "Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway," are the topic of one of the songs on Troll's CD. All of the art on display at "Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway" at the Burke Museum in Seattle some 20 paintings plus five murals is by Troll, who lives in Ketchikan. The pictures share the spotlight with assorted shells, skulls, bones, impressions and other fossils from the Burke's collection. Together they form an eye popping, walk through version of the book, also titled, "Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway," written by paleontologist Kirk Johnson and illustrated by Troll. The skeletal maw of an enormous fish greets visitors as they come through the door. Xiphanctinus audax chased prey in seas over present day Kansas an estimated 85 million years ago. With a powerful, snake like body, reinforced jaws, boar like tusks in its lower jaw and fangs jutting out from its top lip, it's scary to look at even when dead. Next to the fossil is a time traveling self portrait of Troll (or someone who looks like him) in shorts and baseball cap, standing on a little boat and fighting to reel in one of these "I knew about Ray very early in the Troll days because I saw people wearing his T shirts, 'Spawn Til You Die' and all," said Johnson in a phone call from Denver, where he's a curator at the Denver Museum of Nature Science. Johnson, who grew up in Seattle, got hooked on fossils at the Burke, which is located on the campus of the University of Washington. He returned to the city for a convention of paleontologists in 1993. The event coincided with another Troll show at the museum. "I'd done the 'Planet Ocean' book," said Troll. That book brimmed with his famous fish images and included depictions of ancient sea life. "I had all this artwork and it dawned on me that maybe a natural history museum was the place to take it." The Burke mounted that show and hosted a reception that Troll attended. "This giant guy came up to me and said, 'I've been a fan of yours for years,' " Troll recalled. An expanded version of the "Planet Ocean" show at the Denver museum with a greater emphasis on prehistoric oceans emerged from that meeting. The Denver collaboration led to the two teaming up for seven years of grand road trips throughout the Western United States. Their visits to digs and displays produced the colorful, fact packed and frolicsome "Fossil Freeway" book in 2007. The book begat the exhibit, which will tour after it closes in Seattle on May 31. All of the fossils in the exhibit are from the Burke's collection, said MaryAnn Barron Wagner, the museum's communications director. Those who have previously visited the place to see its natural history and anthropological treasures it has some prime Northwest Indian art, among other things may be surprised to see how much paleontological material it's had tucked away. But, at least for the moment, it's up front. Not only fossils connected to Troll's pictures, like a giant extinct mollusk, but fine specimens of a long necked, flippered elasmosaurus, a carnivorous theropod and a spiky stegosaurus on display in an adjacent space, along with modern animals like an albatross and a killer whale skeleton. Also on display is a respectable cast of a cheeseburger mixed in with the bones and shells. Images of the ubiquitous roadside food can be found throughout the show (and the book). Such depictions of life here and now are a hallmark of Troll's illustrations. "Ray is his own category," said Johnson. "His imagery is so Ray Ban RB4151 Sunglasses Black Rubberize Frame Grey Lens
Ray Ban RB4151 Sunglasses Black Rubberize Frame Grey Lens wonderfully full of puns and verbal twists. When we were working on the book, often I would write something and he would draw it. I get these ideas and I know he can bring them to life." Troll said the 3 D nature of some of his paintings caught him by surprise. A reader first stumbled upon the effect in his "Planet Ocean" book. "Drawing on dark surfaces lends itself to these 3 D glasses," he said. "Basically the glasses let the warm colors come through quicker. Reds, yellows and oranges pop; blues and green stay back. So I paint a red salmon surrounded by blue and showmanship!" Another facet of showmanship involves music, a CD of songs mostly written by Troll and Russell Wodehouse and featuring a number of other performers. "We wrote all these tunes in different styles," Troll said. "Ska, doo wop, folk, heavy metal, bluegrass." The "Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway" CD includes songs about the table of geological ages, trilobites and the joys of fossil hunting ("Paleonerd"). It features some nice vocals, particularly by Shauna Lee, and commendable instrumentals, like Andrew Heist's mandolin picking. Johnson's love of "time travel with a shovel" is shared by many, Troll noted, including himself. "It's what makes paleontology such a good gateway to science for a lot of kids," the artist said. "I'm no different. The first thing I was drawing was dinosaurs when I was 4 years old. Here I am, 50 years later, still drawing them." The partnership of painter and paleontologist has been rewarding for both men, Johnson said. "Ray's the kind of artist who collects scientists, and I'm the kind of scientist who collects artists." In fact they're planning their next book, tentatively titled "Cruisin' the Eternal Coastline: Baja to Barrow." It will follow the "Fossil Freeway" format, focusing on America's West Coast. For that book, Johnson plans to join Troll for expeditions to Alaska fossil sites this summer. While Alaska is not famous for digs, Troll said it still offers a lot. "The mantra is that fossils are everywhere; you just look under your feet." ArticlesWoman accused of embezzling more than $100,000Restaurant suspends Chena River golf game after complaintSuspect indicted in alleged sex abuseCity to address nine employee resignations under Mayor EberhartGrand jury indicts two for Kavairlook murderWoman charged in alleged abuse of stepdaughtersNorth Pole woman gets 4 years for death of her childPolice investigating body found in north FairbanksPirate case dropped after alleged victim's deathGas line break in Fairbanks briefly closes Richardson Highway.

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