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New art installation brings area's history to life

Staff Writer | July 23, 2022 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT – Downtown Sandpoint is gaining a new art installation depicting the history of North Idaho, thanks to local sculptor Mark Kubiak.

On the walls of The Blue Room, located in the old Ivano’s location, the history of the region will find its home. Displayed across six hand-carved relief sculptures known as the “Ponderay pieces,” each panel gives a glimpse into each era that led to the construction of the railroad.

The history is carved in order starting with the great flood of glacial Lake Missoula 20,000 years ago, covering what is now Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. Waves and ice crashed through carving a path of ripple marks, washing everything out to the Pacific Ocean and creating the Columbia River Gorge. The panels then show how the animals were first to return to the area, with a foggy image showing a bear and squirrel who preceded the man’s return to the area.

Telling the story of how the area came to be what it is today is one of the inspirations for the artwork, Kubiak said. The other was his love of Native American myths. Kubiak said it was ancestors of the Kalispel Tribe who returned after the animals, who were then followed by settlers from Western Europe. Construction of the railroad is where the relief sculptures end their storytelling and Kubiak said he chose to end the story there because he wanted to depict a time that predates anyone currently alive.

Relief sculptures, named from the Latin term relevo meaning to raise, often depict a 3-D on a 2-D surface, either through carving or through onding of some type. Kubiak said he spent two years from 2015 to 2017 carving each panel. Using a hand chisel Kubiak said his process started with sketches that were to scale, more than four-and-half feet in length and roughly two feet in width, to make transferring the image more simple. Then he started carving using various techniques to ensure the carving depth.

In his artwork Kubiak carved mountains, trees, animals, Native American housing, and people, all made distinguishable by the various depths. Each element is made to stand out from another.

A long-time friend of The Blue Room owner, Kim Bond, Kubiak said he and his family came to see the accomplishment of their friends when he noticed how perfectly his art would look on the walls. Painted a medium muted tone of blue, Kubiak said the lighting in the restaurant would be perfect for displaying the image as the light has to “rake across just so.”

“I'm always looking for just the right kind of place to put my work. Three-dimensional work requires more space. These require open wall spaces, nice clean space and really the right kind of light,” Kubiak said.

Once he had finished carving each piece, the aspen wood panels were bonded together, Kubiak said. To protect the integrity of the images, Kubiak said he used a whitewash sealant to prevent the nearly white wood from showing age.

Bond, being a longtime friend of Kubiak, said she loved that the pieces found a home in the restaurant because she had always been a fan of them and Kubiak's talent.

“I have always felt that it should be displayed in the Idaho state capital. It is a true artistic rendition of our history. Mark is a very well-known artist and we are absolutely honored to host these pieces,” Bond said.

The Blue Room officially opened its doors to the public in mid-June and since then Bond said this new venture has thus far been well received.

“We are fulfilling a dream to own a restaurant in Sandpoint and are thrilled to offer this beautiful space as well as the culinary delights offered by our wonderful local chef Kaitlin Reynolds. We’re very family-oriented, music every night, amazing desserts by our own Alina Rozak,” Bond said.

With work to hang the pieces beginning on Wednesday, the official reception of the pieces will be held on July 24 at 6 p.m.

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