PALMER — There’s a new set of murals in Palmer. Bystanders can now catch a glimpse of Charlene Lofgreen’s work on the Country Cutts hair studio.

“I think it’s just amazing,” Country Cutts owner Stan Guthrie said.

The murals feature Alaskan wildlife and nature, serving as a long awaited milestone that made it in time for the studio’s 35th anniversary.

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There are two large murals on the back side of the building, with one fair sized mural on the side, above coffee the drive-thru. Guthrie said that he’s wanted a mural for a long time. He said that that he always intended the rear of the building for a mural, or in this case, two murals with an extra on the side.

Guthrie said that several artists have expressed interest in taking on the mural job but Lofgreen was the first to fully commit and follow through. They clicked right away.

“Stan really likes art and he’s really eccentric… We’re both very colorful people,” Lofgreen said.

Lofgreen lives on the island of Hawai’i,commonly called the “Big Island,” in the state of Hawaii. She has family here in the Valley, including her sister who works at Country Cutts and suggested that she connect with Guthrie in the first place.

Guthrie said that his only real direction was to feature a big moose on the first mural to “stay Palmer.” Guthrie is a longtime supporter of local sport teams and has recently donated to Palmer High School’s baseball, football and hockey teams.

“We have a community we get to watch, admire, and see families grow and change,” Guthrie said.

Lofgreen sketched the designs, showed Guthrie and got to work right away.

“All she’s ever done is give rough drafts then just literally throwing them on the building,” Guthrie said.

After years of making murals across Hawaii and the Lower 48, Lofgreen’s had plenty of practice. She quickly falls into a rhythm when she picks up the brush. Plus, she’s had a powered lift at her disposal.

“It went way faster than I thought… I think it’s the lift,” Lofgreen said with a laugh.

Last summer, Lofgreen sculpted two custom creations for the entryway. She crafted a bear chair and a bull bench, to complement the cow bench outside.

“He wanted a mural but we ran out of summer,” Lofgreen said.

That summer, Lofgreen said that she was taking a break with her sons from all the “lava drama” back home. This was during the 2018 Kilauea volcano eruption in Hawai’i. It destroyed hundreds of homes, forcing many people to evacuate the island.

“The lava drama was a bit much for me so I came here with the boys,” Lofgreen said.

Lofgreen said that her sons really like Alaska, especially after their various adventures hunting and fishing. It was the first time they ever shot a gun.

“It opened their eyes to another world they want more of,” Lofgreen said.

Lofgreen is back again, staying with her mother in Wasilla. On July 13, she spent the day painting the finishing touches on the last of the three murals.

She said that she started with the big mural featuring the moose. She finished the first mural in less than two weeks and kept going. It’s taken her less than a month to complete all three murals.

She said that she’s got a lot of attention and positive feedback from the local bystanders. She said that she appreciates Palmer’s friendly, small town atmosphere.

“It’s such a quaint, happy little town. It’s like Hawaii in a way. There’s a lot of aloha here,” Lofgreen said. “It’s been really nice that I can contribute to that.”

Lofgreen said that the two large murals on the back of the building are the tallest she’s has ever created. She’s painted countless murals in the past. That’s in addition to her numerous other projects with varying mediums.

She’s a career artist that lives off her art assignments and supplemental odd jobs like masonry work. She has a range of skills that she uses in a surplus of ways to pay the bills. To her, art is way more than a paycheck.

“It’s been my salvation. It’s been my friend. It’s been my everything. It has helped me process trauma. It’s been my therapy. It gives me so much joy and it also gives others so much joy so it’s like win-win-win. So I’m just very grateful to be an artists and do what I do,” Lofgreen said.

Lofgreen has been making art all her life. She said runs in her family. Her father made custom knives and movies and here uncle is a notable Alaskan wildlife artist.

“He has inspired so many people… I can only aspire to be like him,” Lofgreen said.

She said that between her sons and missing Alaska’s wildlife and nature, it’s tempting to move back up here. She said that she isn’t sure what the future holds but she’s likely to move soon due to her nomadic nature. She noted the lava taught her that “change is instant” and not to get attached to material one place too long.

“The lava teaches you to live in the moment,” Lofgreen said.

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

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