March 29, 2023 marks the day that Guemes Island lost a treasure. Artist Kit Marcinko moved to the island in 1970 and quickly became a fixture here. He partnered with friend Glen Veal, and together they started the Anacortes Brass Works, a production foundry specializing in custom art objects and commercial sand-cast products. Their early creations were belt buckles and pendants, and they were soon accepted into juried competitions at major arts and crafts fairs including Bellevue, Anacortes, and Edmonds. According to beltbucklehistory.com, the buckles were cast in solid brass and were among the highest quality buckles produced in the 70s and 80s. Many of the earliest designs were nature-inspired and featured artwork with whales, coastal birds, and other wildlife. Collectors will commonly encounter buckles that commemorate the completion of construction projects, safety awards, and other corporate achievements.
Kit soon graduated to freeform sculptures. He had access to about ten pounds of molten brass at the end of a pour at the foundry. He would often cast these “leftovers” into unique shapes which he then combined with found objects to create one-of-a-kind pieces. In an interview with MJ Andrak, Kit shared “I do something every day, even if it’s wrong. I classify myself as a minimalist and a monochromist. Three-dimensional art is my love”. He added that “I try to elevate the mundane. My art has puns and humor – Dada with meaning”. He also told her that for the “past twenty-five years I have been the chief curator and collector of my own work”. Guemes Islander, Kathy Whitman, remembers walking around his studio and, upon inquiry, finding that most pieces weren’t for sale as they were destined for special people in Kit’s life. Despite this, many of his creations can be found in numerous private collections. Kit’s paintings and sculpture have been featured in gallery and museum exhibitions in Bellingham, La Conner, Anacortes, and Seattle. He also worked as a landscape designer, curating stone gardens (often with artfully placed, massive boulders), large-scale walls, and plantings.
WWKS – What Would Kit See is a game we all should play; the world would be much more interesting if we trained our eyes to look at regular items differently, as Kit did. His partner, Susan, shared that Kit was inspired by the beach and how things weather. In an Evening Star interview, Kit commented that “It used to be that people thought it was pretentious to have outdoor art, but I love not being afraid to put a sculpture out – even in the rain.” He passed that appreciation on to his descendants. At 3 or 4 years old, his granddaughter declared her preference for rusty things. Kit’s son, Blake, would always be on the lookout for material for his father to use in sculptures. One of his favorite memories involved one of these items. Blake found an antique belt coin changer. It was from the 30’s or 40’s, was nickel-plated, and had a nice patina – perfect! Ferry employees used to use one of these changers back when the fare was 50 cents. Kit was known for his sense of humor and the coin changer was the perfect vehicle for a prank. He strapped it onto his belt and strolled up to a ferry worker and said that he was collecting return fares from the tourists on the Guemes side. He, of course, wasn’t doing this, but I’m sure the thought brings a smile to many an Islander! The coin changer did eventually make it into a sculpture, by the way.
I recently had the privilege to spend time with Susan at the home she shared with Kit. The house is an homage to Kit’s creativity. It was truly magical to be surrounded by their favorite works and to hear the stories of how they came to be. Two pieces stood out to me.
His self-portrait is made from 3 pieces of wood. Simple, right? That description couldn’t be more wrong – with Kit’s touch, it’s anything but! I actually felt like he was looking at me and I get chills every time I look at it. Most of what Kit is associated with is his sculptures.
He does paintings (and cartoons) as well. One painting of a view that is familiar to anyone on Guemes who drives down Edens Road towards West Shore. It’s an enchanting representation of an enchanted place.
Kit Marcinko was a man who held a special place in the hearts of many. He has been referred to as a legend and will certainly be remembered as such. Guemes Island and its residents were lucky he called this place home. His exit has left a huge hole in our community.
Until we meet again, Kit.
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