The Maude Kerns Art Center is pleased to present two exhibits, “Environs: A Plein Air Painters of Lane County Invitational” and “Weather Permitting: Work by Laura Ahola-Young,” opening on Friday, February 25 and on view through March 25.
“Environs: A Plein Air Painters of Lane County Invitational,” which was juried by the Art Center’s Executive Director and Exhibits Coordinator, showcases work in a variety of media created by 25 artist members of the Plein Air Painters of Lane County. While the theme of “Environs” is a celebration of the beauty of our shared environment, the exhibit also highlights the need to preserve the natural world in the face of habitat loss, pollution, and climate change.
Cottage Grove artist Horst Hittenberger shows three oil paintings in “Environs,” including two landscapes at sunset and an expansive coastal view. Hittenberger says that his love for nature and the outdoors first inspired him to paint “en plein air,” or outdoors in the open air. Plein air painting was first made into an art form by the French Impressionists, who sought to capture the changing, ephemeral qualities of light. For Hittenberger, the weekly painting excursions organized by the Plein Air Painters of Lane County at different locations, have been stimulating. He hopes that the viewer of his art feels the emotion and mood he experienced while painting outdoors.
Springfield artist Charlene Eckman displays three oil paintings that reflect her love for the natural world: Sagebrush, highlighting this special plant whose roots bring moisture to the soil surface; Middle Fork of the Willamette River, in recognition of the wild areas protected in our local parks; and Sentinel, a painting of a gray wolf whose species was successfully reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park in 1995. Eckman, a longtime art educator, says that she enjoys using oils and other materials to focus on the textures and patterns that are found in the plants, rocks, mountains, rivers, and animals that share our fragile environment.
Cottage Grove artist Uyen-Thi Nguyen exhibits one striking oil and acrylic painting titled Edge of the Woods. Nguyen has exhibited her paintings extensively throughout Oregon. Her work won second place in Springfield’s Mayor’s Art Show in 2021 and the Juror’s Choice Award in the 2020 Around Oregon Annual exhibit in Corvallis. Nguyen says that she paints “to look, to love, to learn what it is to see with eyes unburdened by preconceptions and to find the relationships that are interlaced between, within, and around each of us.”
Elmira artist Margaret Plumb shows three lively acrylic paintings in “Environs.” Plumb's work has been displayed at galleries and other venues throughout Eugene, Springfield, Lane County, and Marion County, both in solo and group shows. She describes the inspiration for her work in this way: “When I paint, I get lost and absorbed, time is weightless, and my mind is engaged in the now. I work freely and intuitively in the moment, leaving behind angst and just enjoying the creative process…. I make art because there is some innate, inexplicable desire that compels me to create and recreate what I see in nature -- form, colors, and shapes.”
For “Weather Permitting,” Pocatello, Idaho artist Laura Ahola-Young exhibits paintings and drawings that focus on our understanding of and relationship to living organisms such as plants, algae, fungi, and microbes. Ahola-Young received an MFA in Pictorial Arts from San Jose State University and is currently an Associate Professor of Art at Idaho State University. She has had numerous solo exhibitions of her work in galleries in the West and Midwest as well as many juried and group exhibitions. Inspired by scientific discoveries, Ahola-Young is fascinated with algae and their role in producing oxygen in the atmosphere through the process of photosynthesis. She describes her work in the following way: “Through imagery, I am attempting to aesthetically suggest that our human endeavors (art, science) are in a continuous paradoxical and symbiotic quest for understanding the division, dualism, dichotomies, opposition, symmetry, and binaries that exist as part of our ecosystems and human lived experience.”