The painting program offers graduate and undergraduate studio courses in contemporary painting. Our courses include beginning, intermediate and advanced acrylic and oil painting, watercolor and Summer Sessions outdoor landscape painting. These outdoor courses have taken place throughout Alaska in various historic and scenic areas such as the Brooks Range, Denali National Park, Valdez, Cordova, and McCarthy.



Mike painting
Michael Nakoneczny

Michael Nakoneczny

Associate Professor, MFA

The jokey text and clunky rendering in Michael Nakoneczny’s recent drawings is as primitive as ever, and his cartoonish style – always funny at first - belies the same old sadness. What’s new here is an increased worldliness that allows for even greater opportunities for well-intentioned failure. The pathetic likeability of Nakoneczny’s sad sack heroes, who never seem to get the joke let alone the girl, is at the heart of this work, making us feel protective even as we cringe at their cluelessness.

Nakoneczny’s imagery has always been strongly rooted in his native Chicago, populated as it is by what appear to be slightly geeky working class guys with hearts of gold and inspired by the comic book style of the Hairy Who. Now he’s taken his geeks on the road and his new work is full of cultural references that reflect his own years away - in Alaska, Thailand and Cambodia.

In one characteristically clumsy drawing that appears to have been executed in ballpoint pen we see a missionary trying to palm off Christianity on a couple of dubious Eskimos. All three figures are bundled in parkas but we recognize our hometown dork by his round eyes and crucifix.

“Damn I bet she’s hot under that thing!” deals with a similar cultural collision. Here a man’s contemplation of the discomfort of wearing a burqa gives rise to forbidden thoughts of the physical charms of the woman under it. As usual the artist’s alter ego has made an idiotic, and in this case potentially dangerous, faux pas.

Nakoneczny arranges for his clueless American to come out looking badly in every one of these embarrassing moments of cultural misunderstanding and by doing so he arouses in the viewer a revealing mixture of shame and sympathy for a childlike figure who is uncomfortably familiar, and very like the naïve America he represents.

- Margaret Hawkins

Michael Nakoneczny lived in Chicago for over twenty years. He is currently teaching painting at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, Alaska. Michael has received numerous awards including a Rasmuson Foundation Grant, Illinois Art Council Fellowship and an Arts Midwest/NEA Regional Fellowship. He received a BFA from Cleveland State University and an MFA from the University of Cincinnati. Michael Nakoneczny is represented by Zolla/Lieberman Gallery, Inc., Chicago, IL. and Grover Thurston Gallery in Seattle, WA.

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