Playa Residency, September 11 through September 25, 2013

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[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.

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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.

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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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Paintings from Pine Creek, Second Issue

It’s now November and I have left the north-central woods of Pine Creek, had a brief visit with relatives¬† in Lancaster County, spent four days in Philadelphia, mostly at the new Barnes Museum, and am now back in Portland Oregon. Here’s some links to my non-painting adventures: the Saga; the Crick; the hike up Gamble Run Road;¬† and the last days.

And, just in case you missed it, the first group of paintings from Pine Creek can be found on my art blog, the post immediately prior to this one. Below are the paintings not shown there.

The Camp (Cedar Pines) and its Rock Fence, 12 x 24″, oil on board, 2012

Pine Creek and Stump, 18 x 24″, Oil on board, 2012

From Gamble Run Road (2), 12 x 16″, oil on board, 2012

Slate Ledges along Rt. 414, 12 x 16″, oil on board, 2012

Birches at Leonard Harrison State Park, 12 x 16″, oil on board, 2012

Cushman View 1, 6 x 16″, oil on board, 2012

Cushman View 2, 6 x 16″, oil on board, 2012

Each of the paintings carries its own anecdote, of course. The long, semi-panorama of Cedar Pines was done on a humid day on a hill across the road from the camp, another of those masochistic attempts to capture something of the feel of the place in which our family has so much history embedded. The rock wall is made from creek cobbles.

The stump, in Pine Creek and Stump, is one of hundreds in the area, left after a mini-tornado took out trees as well as roofs and telephone wires. I became fascinated by the stumps and the trees, many of them white pines. Somehow the stumps and trees became metaphors for my thinking about the homeplace, particularly as some of the snags and stumps showed new growth or sheltered new kinds of plants.

The Gamble Run painting was a re-visiting of another which sold; I was so smitten with that view that I tried to paint another. The second version, while painted from the same spot as the first, is different — of course.

The slate ledges painting, done in preparation for something else I had in mind, took on its own life, in part because of the challenge of the material and in part because I was sitting on a very narrow verge of a hill on a winding narrow mountain road. It almost certainly caused a certain amount of comment in the community, particularly as I was in danger of a) tumbling down the hill behind me and/or b) being run down by the vehicles of the locals who know every inch of the road (and drive accordingly) but didn’t know that painters had found the glories of the area.

The last three paintings above were from views of the Pine Creek Gorge. The birches with the Gorge in the background were a compromise; I found the perfect place to paint from but couldn’t get my materials down the trail to the lookout (I took lots of photos). So I sat along a comfortable and accessible spot in the main trail.¬† The two paintings from the Cushman Lookout were done in the sun and heat with waspish creatures bugging me, but were somehow important to me in a personal sense. My mother and father loved that view and I have old black and white photos of them with the two of them and Jer, looking out over the mountains. The Cushman isn’t a view of Pine Creek but rather of a tributary of a tributary of Pine Creek; it does, however, show the Allegheny Plateau going on and on and on. The two paintings were done on a single 12 x 16″ board, which I think will be cut in half some day.

Autumn and Snags, 16 x 12″, oil on board, 2012

This last painting was done at the end of my visit, after Jer had loaded up the big canvases and I had finished off the few pieces I kept back to ship before I traveled home by train. It’s one of my favorites, containing not just the snags and fog, but at last, some color other than green.

Finally, in the continuation of this post, are paintings which I sold or gifted; one of the benefits of being a painter is that it isn’t too difficult to give thank-you gifts to those who have helped. So if you want to see a few more photos of paintings, not tweaked in the home studio, continue on.

And, the two big canvases I started on the back porch of the Camp (as well as a few others) are still being worked on. More on them later. –June

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