For the past few months I’ve been wondering if my art lives most comfortably in the the West — not as in ‘the Western Canon,’ but as in ‘the American West.’ That suspicion was reinforced during our recent road trip through the upper western states — Wyoming and South Dakota especially — where I got to see some pretty serious painting and sculpture in places like the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole and the Buffalo Bill Center in Cody.
Standing in the wildlife museum that afternoon in Jackson, I felt engaged and energized in a way I very seldom do while looking at “contemporary art,” which for all its earnestness often strikes me as brittle and joyless.
No, I’m not buying a cowboy hat and boots. But I have been exploring the idea of the American West with my images for years. Maybe it’s time to make that direction more explicit with the work I make — and with the venues I seek to show it in. (Plus, I’ve been wanting to treat myself to a trip to Santa Fe….)
And, no, I’m not a wildlife photographer. Don’t have the patience. But elk can be pretty easy pickings, as in this hand-colored photo I made of a pair of young bulls I found sparring at Dean Creek last month.
To my considerable surprise last night my hand-colored photo Blue Diamond 2018.36 got the second place award in the Umpqua Valley Arts Center’s Artworks Northwest exhibit in Roseburg.
Juror Danielle Knapp told the crowd at the reception that 912 works were entered, of which she selected 56.
Even better: The award came with a check for $500.
I shot the photo last year on a cool, rainy day chasing around the southern Oregon Cascade forests with Noah and a bird guy named Lee French, who was guiding us to various Great Gray Owls he knew about in the vicinity. At one stop I was feeling particularly cold and miserable but looked up to see this snag, which was marked by a blue diamond for cross country skiers. I took the picture without thinking too much about it. Then got home and printed it large, and forgot about it for a while, and then one day added some paint — and decided I liked it quite a lot.
We’re just back from a couple leisurely days celebrating Thanksgiving at the Oregon coast. The weather was the best that the Northwest has to offer this time of year: chilly, wet, windy and unbelievably fresh. Had a great holiday dinner Thursday at Driftwood Shores, and spent most of the rest of the time out enjoying the beach and trails.
I’ll be doing hand-colored versions of both of these photos soon.