This is the installation of my current exhibition at Dodson’s Fine Jewelers, in Spokane, WA. I regret that my photographs do not do the installation justice, but it was the best that I could do under the circumstances.
The exhibition will be up until December 2. Dodson’s is located at 516 West Riverside Avenue. Their hours are Tuesday through Friday 10am to 6pm, Saturday 10am to 5pm.
I spent 4 days participating in the Pacific Northwest Plein Air 2017 event at Maryhill Museum, on the Columbia River Gorge. It was a grueling affair, with temperatures as high as 110 degrees. There were 42 artists involved, and the event culminated in a month-long exhibition at Maryhill Museum, where it will hang until August 27th.
Because of the excessive heat, along with the parameters of the competition, the event became a bit of an endurance test. One must create a minimum of 4 paintings in 4 days. Since the 4th day is devoted to framing, the inevitable touchup and delivery to the museum, there are really only three days to do the paintings. For me that meant doing 4 alla prima studies as quickly as possible so that I could go find a cold beer. I was joined by my friend John Laney, and on one occasion we found the heat so oppressive that we opted for the beer without the painting as prelude.
At the outset of the event there was a post on facebook that addressed a controversy re. what is truly plein air. Must it be done in total on site, or can one work on it in the studio? If worked in the studio, what percentage is permissible? I always look to the old masters for answers to these questions, and I find that the men who virtually invented the art of painting en plein air did not fetishize the process, but did what they felt the painting demanded. They painted outdoors, finished indoors, used photo references at times, and did all in a spirit of lively experimentation. They did not valorize process over results. Posting these mundane observations got me blocked by one purist amongst the ‘pleinairistas,’ but also collected some ‘likes’ as well.
The real value of these events is the opportunity to network with other artists. I often wonder if we couldn’t get beyond the need to turn these gatherings into a competitive blood sport, they might resemble the convivial gatherings of the old art colonies that populated Europe and America at the turn of the last century. I enjoyed seeing some old friends, Cathleen Rehfeld Meyers, Celeste Bergin, etc., and meeting some new ones, Thomas Kitts, Aaron Johnson, Bhavani Krishnan and Matt Sterbenz.
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This is a long-term project, a painting of Plaza Guemes. Plaza Guemes is a public square in the Palermo Viejo district of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The painting is based on a small study that I did on location, as well as photomontages, and photographs and other source material that I developed during the course of my working on the study. You can follow the painting’s progress on my “Painter’s Workshop” page.
From August 22-28 I participated in the Pacific Northwest Plein Air 2016 event in and around the Columbia River Gorge near Hood River OR and Maryhill Museum, Goldendale WA. The event was a competition, exhibition and sale, hosted by the Maryhill Museum. I was joined by my friend John Laney and 38 other artists, and did four paintings over a period of four days. The works were done alla prima and en plein air. Because the works would immediately be placed in a museum exhibition, I built the frames around the panels before doing the actual paintings. This made work a bit awkward, but in the end the weight of one painting with the heavy frame helped stabilize my setup during the first day’s 30 mph gusts of wind.
I have mixed feelings about these events, partially because I think that competition in art tends to place emphasis on the wrong qualities, much like what takes place in Olympic figure skating. Nevertheless, I did get a ribbon award, for “Best Mountain,” and was flattered that Terry Miura, the juror, gave it to me. I owe big thanks to my friend and colleague Cathleen Rehfeld for encouraging us to participate in what was overall a really enjoyable week of painting in the Gorge.
“Portrait of Alvaro Izurieta: My Friend and Colleague”, oil on canvas, 20 x 16 inches, copyright ©2014
When I visited Buenos Aires in 2008, I was fortunate to have met a very prominent Argentine painter, Alvaro Izurieta. He was opening a show at a gallery, Clasico y Moderno Espacio de Arte, near Plaza Guemes, where I had been painting. Alvaro did not speak English, and my Spanish was very limited, but we were able to communicate through his beautiful daughter Adela, who spoke English fluently. We’ve kept in touch over the years since my visit, and I was able to introduce Alvaro to my art dealer in Seattle, which exhibited some of his drawings in an exhibition a few years ago. More recently Alvaro suggested that we exchange portraits. I was very excited about this prospect, enthralled with the idea that my portrait would be painted by the great artist that had produced such a fine portrait of the Argentine writer Juan José Sebreli. Alvaro’s portrait of me was excellent, and very insightful. My own portrait of Alvaro is intended as a tribute to a serious painter, one who has produced an expansive and meaningful body of work over the years.
Alvaro Izurieta was a protegé of the sculptor Antonio Pujia, considered one of the greatest living artists in Argentina. Their work toured together recently in Argentina, and they share an eclectic approach to the production of art that is quite different than what we have come to expect of artists in the United States. These South American artists freely adopt and reinterpret diverse styles in their work, from a kind of Classical Realism to an early Modernist experimentation. In Pujia’s case you can see influences of Minimalism and Surrealism. In every instance, expression is the objective. They respect and reinterpret the language of modernism, but also explore traditional figurative modes if necessary. In doing so they turn the dominant narrative of the last century on its ear. It’s impossible to describe how refreshing this is.
Here is the portrait that Alvaro did of me. He also did a second much larger portrait which I may post later.
My Friend Bill, oil on canvas board, 16 x 12 inches, copyright ©2013
The painting above has spent the last three plus years in Chişinău, Moldova, on loan to the American Embassy to Moldova, through the Art in the Embassies program. It has just returned from its long trip, and is currently at Davidson Galleries, in Seattle, in their inventory. Here is the relevant link to the U.S. Department of State – Art in Embassies Program:
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