An art exhibit showcases the beauty of mighty Colombia – cialisdfr
An art exhibit showcases the beauty of mighty Colombia
An art exhibit showcases the beauty of mighty Colombia

The first time Thomas Jefferson Keats went to the Maryhill Art Museum near Goldendale, Washington, he had just returned to the Northwest from art school in Kansas City. It was a hot day outside, but he found relief in the quaint rock museum on the Columbia River.

“I was really surprised, kind of blown away by what I saw there. So I just kept popping in every now and then to see what was displayed on the wall,” Keats said.

This year his art graces the space.

“It was kind of a homecoming story for me,” Keats said.

    Thomas Jefferson Keats painted

Courtesy of Thomas Jefferson Keats

Thomas Jefferson Keats painted “en plein air” near the Twin Sisters at Wallula Gap. The finished painting is on display at the Maryhill Art Museum.

The museum’s newest exhibit, “The Columbia River: Wallula To The Sea,” features works by Kitts and fellow artist Erik Sandgren, both based in Portland. About 70 historical and contemporary paintings and photographs displayed there depict the middle and lower part of Colombia.

The exhibition includes many “plein” paintings, which loosely translates to “outdoors”. The pictures show a stretch of about 313 miles of the mighty Columbia. In “en plein air” painting, the light and conditions are constantly changing.

“We’re introducing the Columbia River Gorge to the world,” said Amy Behrens, executive director of the Maryhill Museum of Art. “We want people to come and reflect on the identity of the river and describe the ways in which people have interacted past and present with the river. And to think about what the future of the river means.

It’s the perfect location for an “en plein air” exhibit, she said, with the museum perched on a cliff on the side of the river, right near the scenic gorge.

“It really reveals the inside and the outside,” she said. “It’s really an exhibition about the people who lived here.”

As a companion to the main exhibit, the museum also features woodblock prints and linocuts in a show called “King Salmon: Contemporary Relief Prints.” The prints are part of the museum’s permanent collection and depict chinook salmon and its cultural significance.

Both exhibitions will be on display until November 15.

Sandgren moved to the area in the 1980s. He said the exhibit also illustrates the cultural changes that have occurred as the river has changed.

“One of the things you learn about the river is how the industry has moved away over the last 200 years,” Sandgren said.

He said agriculture and industry, levees and dams have changed the contour of the river.

Each painting, Sandgren said, is a personal form of acknowledgment of a land.

“It’s really an amazing place where you feel the vastness of this pretty harsh environment, especially east of the mountains, cold winters, hot summers, lots of wind and sand,” Sandgren said. “I began to become aware of certain features of the landscape that were incorporated into local myths, legends and origin stories.”

Sandgren describes his paintings as both “plein air” and “partly fictional, imagined and remembered experience of the landscape I know so well.”

Eric Sandgren paints

Courtesy of Eric Sandgren

Eric Sandgren paints “en plen air”. He describes his style as both “en plein air” and “partly fictional, imagined and remembered experience of the landscape I know so well.”

He said his most creative work in the show is a tall, narrow panel divided into four parts, which Sandgren says represent all the parts of the river in the exhibit. The work is inspired by classical Chinese art.

“I was able to trace the sections of the river between the twin sisters of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation at one end with Swallalah-oost, or Saddle Mountain, at Astoria, where the river meets the sea,” he said.

Keats said he fell in love with “en plein air” painting at an early age, fresh out of school.

“When you’re out, you’re in,” Keats said. “Your eyes can see much more than any camera can capture. All your senses are engaged: you hear things, see things, smell things. It’s a much more visceral experience.”

He describes his work as eclectic at times, noting that one of his favorite pieces in this show is a 24-by-48-inch historical painting. It depicts Hudson’s Bay Company fur trappers who were in the area in the early to mid 1800s.

“I have a friend who specializes in that period and that area,” Keats said. “He had some old photos of him and six of his friends in period costumes. I mean, it’s very historic, getting in a birchbark canoe and pushing off the shore near Beacon Rock.

The show also depicts the environmental connection and history of the Columbia River, which is the fourth largest river in North America by volume of water, Keats said.

“People can really enjoy the comprehensive history of the Columbia River,” he said. “People from other parts of the country don’t understand the grandeur and scale of what’s here.”

Copyright 2024 Northwest News Network. To see more, visit Northwest News Network.

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