AK: A Wrangell scrounge master finds art in scraps left behind

Anny “Fyno” Newport makes dolls, rock houses and other musings from what she finds in dumpsters, thift stores and on beaches. (June Leffler/ KSTK)

To put it simply, Anny “Fyno” Newport is an artist. She’s known throughout Wrangell and Southeast for her collections, crafts and oddities.

Locals may have seen Newport out peaking in the local dumpsters.

“My scrounge master friend, she kind of taught me, and what kind of tools you need: gaff hook, grabber, little stool and a stick to hold the lid up so it doesn’t hit you in the head,” she said. “And that has happened to me before, it hurts.”

Dumpsters are part of her daily routine.

“It took me a little bit of getting used to digging in dumpsters, cause I thought what do people think of me,” Newport said. “But I don’t care anymore… some people think it’s just gross but you just get tough.”

If you have seen Newport and wondered ‘what is she doing?’ The answer is that she’s looking for supplies for her next project.

Hanging from her ceiling are mobiles. One’s made from broken glass, another from toothbrushes and one of colorful bones.

The Gum Glob is a piece made of collected already been chewed, or ABC, gum. Anny started the piece about 30 years ago. (June Leffler/ KSTK)

Newport got these bones after a mink killed her chickens, so naturally she thought “Hey I’ll make a mobile out of that”. She’s an expert at re-purposing things, and not just things that were once inside a living animal.

A shoe sole in her workshop acts as a sign. One side is painted “Welcome”, the other “Go Away”.

What could’ve been considered trash, Newport makes completely new with just a few strokes of paint.

And some things take a lot more than that. Like the Brazen Brassiere. It’s a huge bra embellished with beads, tassels and ribbons. The cups are huge, filled-in with insulation foam. And she clearly enjoys seeing people wearing it. She pulls out a photo album just of people wearing it.

“There’s [my husband] Dan. He wanted a haircut and I told him you get your picture taken in the bra and you can have a haircut,” Newport said.

Her art has made a lasting impact on the community, winning acclaim at various fairs and competitions. Not to mention, her coveted “gumdrop dolls”. These are bean-filled, gumdrop-shaped dolls with a variety of faces and personas. And she’s made 6,000 of them.

“My mom was a doll collector, as I was growing up she always gave me for gifts  unusual dolls,” Newport said.

Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, Newport married her husband, Dan, in 1971. He was a logger, so they moved from logging camp to logging camp eventually leading them up to Alaska, and then settling in Wrangell. There wasn’t much for her to do at these camps except raise her family and begin what would become a lifelong pursuit of art.

“Up here, you just have free art supplies. Driftwood, shells, and rocks, and so that’s really neat,” Newport said.

But there’s no art stores in Wrangell.

“I don’t need an art store. I got dumpsters too you know?” she replied.

Newport describes this style of work as “folk art”.

“Using your own imagination and using what you have,” Newport explained. “Making up your own rules.”

Anny has an eye for taking the ordinary and turning it into something extra. She makes nearly all her art by using things anyone could find: on beaches, at garage sales, and, yes, sometimes even in dumpsters.

“I see so much junk in the dumpsters and I think ‘Gee, why do people throw so much stuff away,’” Newport says. “But you know they don’t know what to do with it, so throw it away.”

I asked Dan Newport, her husband, what is this gift she has?

“Its extra special that’s all I can say,” he said. “She’s just an artist. I think it means something to everybody who is an artist, but I think it’s different for each person, because each person sees something in a different perspective.  Some people are real inclined to see colors, some people are inclined to see geometric objects, some people are inclined to see natural things, things that grow in nature. Leaves, starfish, whatever. She sees all of those things.”

I asked Anny Newport if there was a way to teach others this specific way of looking at things, but she said,  in the end you just have to follow your own interests. She doesn’t care what people think. Whether it’s about digging in dumpsters or the significance of her work. In her own words, “ya get tough.”

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