Playa: September 13, 2013

Friday, Sept 13, 2 013

The big excitement of the day, aside from the fact that I got two more paintings started and the one from yesterday was almost dry today, is that I saw, and then tasted, my first dust storm.


Apparently dust storms on the playa are a common occurrence during the dry season, and this one, in its tasting phase, didn’t last long. But I went out about 3PM to paint (same scene as yesterday) hoping to catch the colors of the playa in mid-afternoon, to finish yesterday’s painting, and to catch the evening light in a new painting.

The playa runs along the old lake bed, north to south, and the wind was catching its eastern side, along the ridge and buttes that line that area. As the wind progressed down the fatter part of the playa, it picked up and was tossing dust high into the sky, way above the ridges on the east. It was a nice brisk wind, going straight south.  Playa’s compound is on the west (undusted) side of the old lake bed and so I painted merrily along, trying to capture the strange hues and colors, like mist only not mist.


[Rachel said later that the storm must have been going from south to north, although I painted it as well as registered it as going north to south. Dyslexia, bad eye sight, or a freak storm? I dunno]

Finishing up for the day, I stopped at the Commons, where Barbara and Rachel were finishing up for the afternoon. It was a bit close inside and all the doors were closed. I thought little of it, until I got back to Cabin 10, just across the great lawn. By the time I got inside and looked out, the wind had shifted and the dust was wiping out the view of Winter Ridge, to the west of the compound.

I ran around closing all the windows (I forgot a few) as if we were in a windy downpour. Then I stood at the balcony windows and watched the world get wiped out – and then reapear – and then get wiped out again. It was fascinating – and very close without the windows open. Finally I opened a beer and made some dinner and next time I looked out the windows, everything was clear and calm.


I have opened up the windows again, but with a bit of a question about whether this could happen while I’m asleep. I think I will cover my computer before I go to bed.


The moon is a bit more than half full and the outside looks delicious right now. I’ll have to make a bit of a jaunt around the great lawn. The mosquitos are fairly ferocious, although I have liberally dose myself with Cutters.


The dust storm over Winter Ridge. This was the only time I saw the Ridge look as though a rain storm was misting it over. There were lots of rain storms that came from the west over the ridge, but they tended to be fierce rather than misty.

So that’s the news from the Oregon Outback. Jer and I have made phone contact and email contact, the latter the only electronic contact available onsite. I could try a cell phone, if I hadn’t loaned it to Jer, but I hear you have to hike and check and check and hike some more to find the tiny corner of this property where you can get service. Not worth it, and I truly glad I don’t have one to think this way about.

Tomorrow is Saturday and time’s a-passing. But I found a sweet little easily-reached view that I can paint when all else fails and I did an oil bar “painting” at the crack of dawn this morning. So I’m doing OK as an artist. At least I’m showing up.   June

Playa Residency, September 11 through September 25, 2013


[Note: The dated entries to the residency journal were done on-site at Playa, but because of restrictions on the bandwidth at the site, none were uploaded until I returned home at the end of September. I will be posting those over the next month, starting with the one done on the first day.]

In this post I thought I do a bit of introduction to Playa.

The Playa website explains something about how the idea for the compound of the artist residencies at Playa arose. My experience of the place was a bit odd, because, as a contributing artist, I was there totally alone; normally there are 8–10 other artists in residence. The on-site manager, Rachel Streeter and I bonded over beer and her dog Pepper. Unfortunately I never remembered to take photos of either. Or, more accurately, I thought of taking the photos but never when either were nearby.

The compound is large. My digs, of which more later in later posts, was a two-story house facing the playa (at the left in the above photo are a shop and two studios; Cabin 10,  where I was located, is next left in the photograph). The Commons, where normally everyone gathers for weekly meals and to pick up incidentals and chat up the staff and each other is on the far right in the photo. There are  three more cabins further to the right, out of sight, which sit on a little knoll (photo below). The playa or lakebed for which the residency is named is the area beyond the structures in the first photo.

southCabinwithclotheslineThe furthest south cabin, on the knoll, overlooks the playa and here, a classic clothesline. A piece of Winter Ridge can be seen in this photo; the Ridge extends in a quarter moon shaped escarpment that rounds from the southwest to the northwest. Playa sits within the shelter of it. The photo is from the Playa website.

I painted from that knoll a couple of times, as well as from the Great Lawn that stretches in front of the cabins from my space in the north to the south past the Commons. The pond, which I faced the north end of, is off the great lawn to the east , and the lake (encompassing the playa) is beyond the ponds further east. All the cabins have big windows and decks that face the playa, which is the feature that became my most frequent companion during my stay.


View from the south end of Summer Lake. Playa (a tiny line of green) is in the center. The curve of Winter Ridge is clearer in this photo. From Playa website.

A “playa” is a primary feature of the basin and range of a large geological area and should not to be confused with the “great basin” which is a subset of the basin and range land. The basin and range lies in the interior US, between the Cascade Mountains and the Rockies. Basin and range country can be found in southern Oregon (Steens Mountain and Lake Abert most prominently,) most of Nevada and pieces of Utah, Arizona, and the country of Mexico. A playa is formed when the water from the ranges flows to the valleys below and forms lakes rather than down to major rivers which ultimately run out to the oceans. Formally this is known as an endorheic basin, but “playa” is a much nicer word. And easier to pronounce.

And “Playa”, the artist residency site, is an oasis sandwiched between Summer Lake, which is endorheic and almost completely dry in mid-September, and Winter Ridge, a classic “range”, gradually graded from its floor going up the slope to the ridge to the steep frontage that confronts Playa. Both geographical places were named by John Fremont who climbed up Winter Ridge in a howling gale and saw the lake and valley below. It looked much warmer down there. Hence, “Summer” Lake.


Summer Lake and Winter Ridge. From Wikipedia

Paintings from Pine Creek: Issue 3

Rain on the Pine Creek Gorge: from Bradley Wales

Rain on the Pine Creek Gorge: from Bradley Wales

18 x 24″, oil on Masonite, 2012

It was a long and fraught winter, with annoying bouts of vertigo that often stopped me completely. Earlier, I had committed to a charity auction, so most of my upright time was spent getting a small end table painted and presentable for the Community Warehouse Chair Affair.

However, as the vertigo lifted, I went back to the studio, where I had odd bits and pieces of paintings from Pine Creek left to finish.

The two Pine Creek Gorge paintings (above and below) were begun on a foggy, rainy afternoon, on-site in Pennsylvania, and soothed in the Oregon studio; both were started at the Bradley Wales lookout, just over the hill from where my mother spent some of her most memorable moments of childhood.

from Bradley Wales Lookout

from Bradley Wales Lookout

18 x 24″, oil on Masonite, 2012

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