By Gale Fiege Herald Writer
Jack Gunter is at it again.
The Camano Island artist is raising money to complete a feature-length film about his adventures in Russia, “The Search for the Lost Paintings of Siberia.”
The “documentary” is laced with Gunter’s off-beat humor, which his fans count on in his paintings and other media.
“The story is based on my 2013 excursion into the Russian Federation in an attempt to locate and bring home 17 of my original paintings, trapped, after my 1990 Russian museum tour, near the Mongolian border by a bureaucracy fractured by the collapse of the Soviet Union,” Gunter said.
Typical Jack Gunter description.
It took some persuasion from Gunter, but National Public Radio commentator Andrei Codrescu is set to narrate the film, portraying the flying pig made famous in many of Gunter’s satirical paintings.
To get Codrescu to narrate, Gunter this month sent him a painting and a cash advance.
“I will be your pig,” Codrescu told Gunter. “We are official.”
To raise money for the film, Gunter, 66, is auctioning a passel of art, including an early 1960s example of the work of legendary 20th-century painter Chuck Close of New York.
Born in Monroe, Close lived in the Everett area for much of his life; he graduated from Everett Community College in 1960 and from the University of Washington in 1962. He earned a master of fine arts degree at Yale in 1964.
Close is known internationally for his giant grid portraits based on his photos of (mostly) famous people.
The work to be auctioned is a Close mural found in a Lake Stevens house where Close once lived, Gunter said.
“A woman walked into my gallery in Stanwood and asked me if I knew Chuck Close,” Gunter said. “I told her that I had a conversation with him in the 1970s, when I was a New England painter working in egg tempera and he was already a New York City superstar.”
The woman told Gunter that her family had bought the Lake Stevens home, designed in the early 1960s by well-known Northwest architect Robert Reichert.
Close had evidently painted the entire kitchen of the house, including the appliances. From that kitchen, the woman’s family had saved four painted cabinet door fronts and wanted to sell them.
On a whim, Gunter encouraged the family to put the doors together on the floor.
“Like puzzle pieces,” he said. “Voila! They fit together perfectly in an abstract design, like Close had made a 6-foot-4 by 5-foot painting and cut the finished work into sections to decorate the doors.”
Gunter believes that Reichert and Close collaborated on the Lake Stevens home and that the cabinet doors were a purposeful work of art by the painter.
A percentage of the sale of the doors will go to the film fund.
The auction is May 3 at Sanford &Son Auctioneers in Tacoma, where Gunter is selling off his collection of 20th-century art.
Other items to be sold include original furniture from a Frank Lloyd Wright residence, Gustav Stickley pieces, a Tiffany lamp, works by glass artist William Morris and paintings by Andrew Wyeth, Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns and others.
“People also have been just donating money for the film,” Gunter said. “Because of their generosity, I am listing them as producers in the credits.”
Gunter and his friends and fellow filmmakers Ken Rowe and Jesse Collver flew to Russia in September to “rescue” Gunter’s paintings and make a documentary about the journey. The return to Siberia was an adventure that Gunter’s legion of fun-loving fans relished and followed on Facebook.
“Working with Ken and Jesse on the film is amazing,” Gunter said. “They are both smart as a whip. Creative geniuses.”
Gunter promises that the movie will be of broadcast quality, and he hopes for television time after its release.
“This is the best creative experience I’ve ever had,” he said.
Jack Gunter’s auction to help fund the completion of the film “The Search for the Lost Paintings of Siberia” begins at 10 a.m. May 3 at Sanford &Son auction, 743 Broadway, Tacoma.
You can learn more about the auction here. Click on Auction Listing to see the other items being sold. You can bid live and follow the auction in real time beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday.