Useful and Usable Sculpture — The Artisan Soap of Walla Walla Soap Works

The unique shape, colors, and scent combinations of Walla Walla Soap Works soap is testament to the artisan flair of its creators, Jesse and Scooter Johnston
The unique shape, colors, and scent combinations of Walla Walla Soap Works soap is testament to the artisan flair of its creators, Jesse and Scooter Johnston

Babylon.

Buried deep within the mists of time, this ancient civilization sends forth its tendrils to touch contemporary society, its effect felt in our religious, scientific, financial, and literary realms. Babylon brings to mind astrology, astronomy, the Code of Hammurabi, the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and . . . soap.

Individual bars from Walla Walla Soap Works start out as part of a long log, which itself is cut from a larger shape.
Individual bars from Walla Walla Soap Works start out as part of a long log, which itself is cut from a larger shape.

And while this latter, soap, is not majestic, like the legendary hanging gardens that King Nebuchadnezzar II created for his foreign wife, it’s still around, a 5,000 year-old chemical wonder of fats blended with alkaline salts that in today’s society, approaches an art form. At Walla Walla Soap Works, a family-run business that creates Artisan soaps from luxuriant ingredients that would have been the envy of ancient monarchs, soap is practical, but it is beautiful as  well.

Large wooden trays hold and display the useful, usable soap sculptures of Walla Walla Soap Works
Large wooden trays hold and display the useful, usable soap sculptures of Walla Walla Soap Works

“We get a lot of questions about the unique shape of our soaps,” says Jesse Johnston, co-owner of the business with his wife Scooter, both of whom have been creating this ancient yet modern marvel for 20 years. The couple’s signature Artisan Bar — rectangular with sworls and peaks across the top like frosting —  is like no shape one will find in a store, or even among other artisan soap makers.

“In our early days of soap making, the shape really didn’t matter as it was  purely for our family use,” Johnston explains. “But when we began selling it, we obviously cared  more about its  appearance and quickly became frustrated when our cut bars weren’t the perfect rectangles that soap is ‘supposed’ to be.

And while it looks good enough to eat, the soap from Walla Walla Soap Works feeds the skin with premium, luxury oils such as Shea, mango and cocoa butters, and oils like avocado and hemp
And while it looks good enough to eat, the soap from Walla Walla Soap Works feeds the skin with premium, luxury oils such as Shea, mango and cocoa butters, and oils like avocado and hemp

“When we decided to peak the top a bit to help it appear less uneven, this proved to be the best thing ever, as once you free yourself from the box you really feel the creativity take over.”

Creativity abounds in an endeavor that includes not only Jesse and Scooter’s energy, but that of their now-grown children as well. What began as a personal search for a product that didn’t trigger skin allergies of various family members, has grown into a venture, and adventure, of color, scent, form and formulation. The resulting products range from soaps with names (and corresponding coloration) like Cranberry Fig and Mango Mandarin, to embossed squares incorporating wine as the liquid, to Bar None, the unscented, non-colored bar that is a consistent top seller.

“It’s appreciated by so many others who have sensitive skin,” Johnston says.

With each family member contributing unique strengths and perspective, Walla Walla Soap Works produces soap all year round from the Johnston’s dedicated home studio, individual batches of 40-80 bars requiring a three to six week “cure” before the soap is ready for final sale. Regular vendors at the Walla Walla Farmers Market since 2007, Jesse and Scooter also sell retail through holiday craft shows and online, wholesale throughout the state, and coast to coast at natural grocery stores and gift shops.

Printed with vegetable-based inks, the packaging of Walla Walla Soap Works reflects the owners commitment to natural products and ingredients
Printed with vegetable-based inks, the packaging of Walla Walla Soap Works reflects the owners commitment to natural products and ingredients

“We’ve had customers take it as gifts to Japan, Canada, Australia, England, France, Germany, Mexico, Iceland, and Scotland,” Jesse says.

As artistically pleasing — and unusual — that the shape of the Johnston’s bar is, this very distinctiveness led to challenges when it came to packaging. How does one protect, and display, such an odd shape?

“The more traditionally used cigar-style paper wrap labels, plastics, and boxes just really didn’t make sense with these fun soaps,” Jesse says. The paper labels didn’t protect, the plastic didn’t allow the soap to breathe, and both plastic and paper boxes created more waste than the Johnstons were comfortable with.

“It seemed crazy to create a product so good for the skin but at a cost to the environment,” Jesse observes.

So, as they have done from the beginning, the family came up with a unique solution, signature paper “suit sacks” hand fed into a vintage printing press and stamped with vegetable-based inks. Stacked neatly and safely in wooden trays, the soap exudes a sense of cheerful chromatic harmony, its whorling tops decorated with dried lavender, poppy seeds, or oats, its interior marbled with color. It is, as Jesse describes it, “fun.”

“It is a product we love, and feel passionate about,” he says.

Such is the sentiment that all true artisans, and artists, express about their art, from Babylon to the present.

Wenaha GalleryJesse and Scooter Johnston of Walla Walla Soap Works are the featured Pacific Northwest Art Event artist from Monday, January 25 through Saturday, February 20.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.

A Heritage of Trees — The Woodworking of Ron Jackson

Handcrafted, hardwood sleigh by Ron Jackson
Handcrafted, hardwood sleigh by Ron Jackson

Thanks to the forethought and enthusiasm of 19th century settlers, the Walla Walla (Washington) Valley abounds with trees, its crown jewel, Pioneer Park, boasting 11 of the biggest examples of their kind in the state. To this day, valley residents take seriously the witty quote, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The  second best time is now.”

Demi Lune handcrafted hardwood table by Ron Jackson
Demi Lune handcrafted hardwood table by Ron Jackson

“For over 150 years the people of Walla Walla have embarked on a vigorous tree planting agenda,” says Ron Jackson, whose ancestors settled in the Starbuck and Tucannon areas before the state was even a state. In the mid- to late 19th century under the Homestead Act, he explains, settlers planted groves of trees as part of the agreement with the government regarding land acquisition.

But the thing about trees, he adds, is that they don’t live forever.

“The walnut tree, for example, has an average life of around 100 years. And then it needs to be taken out.”

Handcrafted, hardwood silver chest by Ron Jackson
Handcrafted, hardwood silver chest by Ron Jackson

“Taken out” generally means chopped down, and Jackson, as the retired owner of Jackson-Sanders Hardwood (which he ran with partner Gayle Sanders during the 1990s) knows all about this: the company bought lumber from homeowners and tree services and sold it nationally to custom furniture manufacturers, woodworkers, and even Microsoft, which at one time boasted a woodworking club.

Handcrafted, hardwood sushi table by Ron Jackson
Handcrafted, hardwood sushi table by Ron Jackson

For Jackson, a tree’s life doesn’t end when it’s cut down, and beautiful trees deserve to be turned into beautiful, functional art — cabinets, chairs, decorative boxes, even a children’s old-fashioned sleigh. In his “retirement,” this is precisely what Jackson does, operating out of a woodshop the size of a two-car garage, filled with hardwoods salvaged from the area.

“I let the wood dictate to me what it will be,” the lifelong woodworker says. “Maple trees are like Christmas presents — you never know what you’ll find inside until you cut them down. Black walnut is a most beautiful wood — it’s pretty, it’s stable.” Bird’s eye, fiddlebacks, burls, shimmers — the terms cascade off Jackson’s tongue as he describes the patterns found in a tree’s grain.

Slide lid box with Marquetry inlay by Ron Jackson
Slide lid box with Marquetry inlay by Ron Jackson

Over the years, and in between owning various businesses and working diversified jobs, Jackson has custom built three houses, complete with hardwood floors, and in his current home, all but two pieces of furniture or cabinetry came to life under his hands. (The only items he didn’t build were his mother’s dining room table and china cabinet.)

Whether the project is big or small, Jackson is ready for the challenge, and his portfolio includes everything from a recently completed commission of dining room table and six matching chairs to a sushi table, from a sliding lidded box with inlaid (Marquetry) imagery to a serving tray — cut from the bias of a bough — which became in high demand among the area’s wineries.

Serving Tray, similar to the one created for the wineries, by Ron Jackson
Serving Tray, similar to the one created for the wineries, by Ron Jackson

“One time, one of the wineries contacted me about making a serving tray, so I did.,” Jackson remembers “They just loved it — called me back and said, we need a couple more. Called me back again, said they wanted to sell them. Pretty soon other wineries were calling and wanting them, but there was a limit to how many I could supply as there was a limited supply of that particular wood.”

Despite having no website, social media presence, or even, up to a year ago, business cards, Jackson fields requests for his work from friends, family, friends of friends, and total strangers who have encountered his art in someone’s home, at the Farmer’s Market (“Depending on the weather — I don’t fight the wind or the rain or go if it’s too hot”), or local shows and craft fairs. On occasion, he takes commissions, but for the most part, he lets the wood speak to him, and the finished products speak to the viewers.

“I’ve been a woodworker all my life,” Jackson says. “The fascinating thing about working with wood is there’s always something else to learn — you’ll never get there. By the time you develop one skill you’re thinking about the next thing.”

But quite fortunately for Jackson, wood — unlike money — decidedly grows on trees.

Wenaha GalleryRon Jackson is the featured Pacific Northwest Art Event artist from Monday, November 30 through Saturday, December 26, 2015.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.

 

Baby, Even When It’s Cold Outside, Plein Air Painters Paint — The Landscapes of Bonnie Griffith

Summer Fields, original pastel painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie Griffith
Summer Fields, original pastel painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie Griffith

Some people spend a chunk of their day outside — mountain climbers, builders, hotel doormen, and definitely not least on the list — plein-air painters.

Grand Staircase II, original pastel painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie Griffith
Grand Staircase II, original pastel painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie Griffith

A central facet of 19th century French impressionism, plein-air painting is so called because it is done outdoors, in the plain, fresh air, and those artists committed to the method rival U.S. Postal carriers in their approach to rain, snow, sleet, wind and the occasional, much appreciated, sunny day.

“There really is nothing like painting outdoors; it makes you a stronger artist, I think,” says Bonnie Griffith, a painter who trilaterally focuses on oil, pastel and encaustic (hot wax) as her mediums of choice.

“You are in natural light and not utilizing the eye of a camera to dictate to you what you see to paint.”

Admittedly, she adds, some days are exceptionally inclement, and she has been known to paint from the interior of her heated car. Given the amount that Griffith travels — participating in shows, teaching and attending workshops, and rotating gallery stock throughout the west and Northwest — perhaps the car isn’t such an odd option.

Symphony in Green, original pastel painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie Griffith
Symphony in Green, original pastel painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie Griffith

“I am a landscape artist, so I am always on the lookout for a place that catches my eye,” Griffith explains. “I love to paint water, so often I am seeking out spots with streams to paint.”

Griffith, who has lived in Walla Walla, WA; Montana; and now Meridian, ID, confesses a special passion for the landscapes of the west, from Canada to Mexico, and is happiest when ensconced in the canyons of the Colorado River, or by the waterways of Montana and Washington, and all that is in between.

“My goal is to create paintings that draw the viewer into the painting, to experience the time of day, the temperature, the sound, the smells.”

River Bend, original pastel by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie Griffith
River Bend, original pastel by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie Griffith

Much of her outdoor, onsite work is done in pastel, a highly portable medium that has the added benefit of capturing and translating brilliant color.

“It is so pure pigment that you can create this wonderful sparkle with ease,” Griffith says. “Oils can be mixed to create wonderful color and a visual story. And when you combine either with encaustic medium, you get wonderful, often surprise results.”

Good surprises are, well, good, but given that working with molten material presents the potential for perturbation, Griffith does find herself — when working with wax — indoors, in the studio, and well prepared for any contingency.

“I do have a spare room that I work with my encaustics, complete with fire extinguisher since I utilize hot wax and a torch to create these pieces!”

Creekside, original pastel painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie Griffith
Creekside, original pastel painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie Griffith

Born into a family of watercolorists, illustrators, and musicians, Griffith has been drawing and painting since childhood, seriously pursuing gallery representation and public recognition from the early 1990s. Her work is in the homes of collectors throughout the United States and Canada, as well as Australia, Sweden, Germany, and England.

She has participated in numerous prestigious, competitive shows, including the Pastel 100 National Competition, the Northwest Pastel Society Member Show, the International Pastel Show, Plein Aire Moscow, and Plein Air Moab, garnering professional accolades such as People’s Choice, Juror’s Award, and Director’s Award. Most recently, Griffith has completed a one-month Artist in Residence for the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, during which time she avidly painted, gave public demonstrations, organized a community paint along, and provided art projects to the local school system.

Traveling, learning, teaching, experimenting, and transporting medium, substrate and easel from the car to the painting site — it is all part of Griffith’s interpreting what she sees onto canvas or paper so others can see it, too. And when they do, then this is sweet success.

“It is about color and painting a work that invites the viewer to step in and make it their own story,” Griffith summarizes. “I say that, if that happens, than I have done my job.”

Wenaha GalleryBonnie Griffith will be at Wenaha Gallery Friday, November 27 for a special art reception during Dayton, WA’s Christmas Kickoff celebration. Join us at the gallery from 3 to 6 p.m. to meet the artist, view incredible art, and enjoy free refreshments. Griffith’s work will be on featured display through December 12.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.

 

Life Is a Journey — The Primitive Rock Art Paintings and Sculpture of Monica Stobie

Belle, by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie.
Belle, by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie.

Some humans live for many many decades, while others measure their lifespan in moments. But all humans, whether or not they ever physically walk on the earth, leave a footprint. It is part of their journey.

A Little Attitude by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie.
A Little Attitude by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie.

For fine artist Monica Stobie, the concept of a journey is simultaneously highly personal and sweepingly universal, embodying the distinctive experience of the individual in concomitance with the lives, stories, and existence of people throughout history. Stobie, whose subject matter — and passion — is rock art, creates pastel, oil, mixed media, collage, and sculpture that draw inspiration from the petroglyphs (pictures carved into rock or stone) and petrographs (pictures drawn or painted on a rock surface) of ancient people. Raised on an apple ranch in the Yakima Valley, Stobie was attracted from a young age to the symbolism and animal imagery of Native American culture, and when, years later, she stumbled upon rock art at a site near the Snake River, she was, as she phrases is, “hooked.”

Cowbird by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie.
Cowbird by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie.

“I have traveled extensively, exploring rock art sites, which has given me an unlimited source of inspiration,” Stobie says. “I worked for several weeks one summer documenting rock art sites on private land. Having a Navajo guide provided a unique perspective on these ancient sites. “Hiking through harsh desert conditions gave me an understanding of a much more difficult time of survival for ancient peoples.”

Fly Away by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie
Fly Away by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie

Stobie translates this understanding, empathy, and fascination into two- and three-dimensional format, and over a professional art career spanning 30 years, she has evolved her technique and style through exploration of various mediums. “Originally, I worked with paper collage — kind of a paper marquetry –fitting different pieces of paper into a design, much like a puzzle.”

Constant experimentation with papers led to her discovery of Mexican bark cloth, a heavily textured paper made from indigenous tree bark that holds layers of rich pastel colors and texture. The next step was sculpture, in response to requests by various galleries carrying her work, and the most recent path is that of oil and mixed media. Throughout all the variance and experimentation, the research and exploration, however, the crux of the matter, which forms the basis of her pilgrimage through both life and art, remains constant:

“When I look at the journey, the prevailing theme of textures, primitive imagery, and animals are prominent,” Stobie observes. She loves the mystery of it all. Life is, after all, a mystery to and for all of us, with none of us knowing where the next step will lead.

Red Hills by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie
Red Hills by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie

In Stobie’s case, art has been a part of her life since early childhood, when she learned under the aegis of her grandmother, a watercolorist.  Early school experiences reinforced a fledgling artistry, when a second-grade teacher praised Stobie’s interpretation of a bird as a sign of outstanding creativity. Adulthood found her graduating from Eastern Washington University with a degree in Art Education, which she put to use for 15 years teaching junior and senior high art in Walla Walla, WA, and Milton-Freewater, OR. Moving to Dayton, WA, coincided with the decision to turn her steps to a new path, one that plumbed the adventures of independent, full time, professional fine art.

Whispers by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie
Whispers by Wenaha Gallery artist Monica Stobie

“Working in a converted bedroom turned into a studio, I began my trek to carve a place in the art world,” Stobie says.

Given her chosen subject matter, it is ironically appropriate that Stobie chooses the word “carve.” The impact she has made extends far from her Dayton venue, as she shows and sells her work to a diverse and widespread clientele.

“During the span of my career I have shown in galleries, mostly throughout the Northwest but also Wyoming, Colorado, and California. In recent years, fellow artist Jill Ingram and I managed our own gallery in Dayton.”

And now, it’s a new adventure, a new direction on the path as Stobie and her husband prepare to move to the Southwest, using this new home as a base from which to travel.

As with all of life’s experiences, some things change, while others stay the same: in a new home, a new venue, a new adventure, the studio, for now, will start out in the familiar fashion of a converted bedroom. But it’s all part of the adventure. “And so,” Stobie proclaims, “a new journey begins.” Wenaha Gallery

Monica Stobie is the featured Art Event artist at Wenaha Gallery, 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA from Saturday, August 22 through Saturday, September 19. An Artist’s Reception is scheduled Saturday, August 22, from 1 – 5 p.m. at the gallery, during which time Stobie will be present to meet viewers and talk about her art. Free refreshments are provided.

Contact the gallery by phone at 800.755.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment.

Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.

Celebrating the Extraordinary of Ordinary — Anne Bullock’s Raku, Stoneware, Pottery and Multi-Media Art

 

Ring Handled Vessel, pottery sculpture by artist Anne Bullock at Wenaha Gallery.
Ring Handled Vessel, pottery sculpture by artist Anne Bullock at Wenaha Gallery.

Woven baskets and clay pots — these humble vessels have been used by ordinary people throughout history. And although they have been and still are a major factor in the daily lives of many, humble vessels are frequently overlooked and discounted in the worlds of both academia and fine art.

Corn Box potter sculpture by Anne Bullock at Wenaha Gallery
Corn Box potter sculpture by Anne Bullock at Wenaha Gallery

It is the rare, sensitive eye that sees the value of the prosaic, and Anne  Bullock, a Walla Walla mixed media artist who, until her death in 2014, celebrated the history and culture of the Plateau people, recognized and respected the expertise and creativity of Pacific Northwest, Native American artisans.

“Anne always worked from a place of deep spiritual meaning,” her husband, David Bullock, remembers. “She found meaningful inspiration in the way these skilled designers used materials at hand in environmentally sound ways to create beauty as well as function.”

Anne’s interest in indigenous baskets took her throughout the region, as she explored the exhibits of the Wanapum Heritage Center Museum, Maryhill Museum, The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center, Sacajawea State Park, Tamastslikt Cultural Institute, The Northwest Museum of Art and Culture,  the Fort Walla Walla Museum, and numerous other historical locations.

Blue Vase pottery sculpture by Anne Bullock at Wenaha Gallery
Blue Vase pottery sculpture by Anne Bullock at Wenaha Gallery

“Vessels are a metaphor for my life and work,” Anne said in her artist statement. “I’m impressed with how early Native American Indian artisans worked with indigenous ‘of the earth’ materials. The gifts of the earth were revered; only what was needed was taken.”

In the spirit of the people she admired and honored, Anne worked in multiple mediums, both two- and three-dimensional, primarily in pottery, but her skills, like her interests, extended a wide range.

“She worked with charcoal, colored pencil, pastel, acrylics, and mixed media assemblage,” David says. “She also augmented her art with work in bamboo, wood, stone, wool, and paper.”

Untitled pottery sculpture by Anne Bullock at Wenaha Gallery
Untitled pottery sculpture by Anne Bullock at Wenaha Gallery

A most outstanding piece, remembered by artist friend and curator of Anne’s work Colleen Sargen, is “Earth, Wheat, Fire,” consisting of 36 tiles which needed to be precisely placed at the former Willow Gallery in Walla Walla, WA, during Anne’s Interwoven Exhibition there in 2010.

“She impressed wheat, other flora objects to honor the earth, bark of trees lost in the Walla Walla wind storm of 2007, and specific items such as sand dollars carefully placed, to honor individuals dear to her who have passed on,” Sargen says.

Adding especial interest to the installation was that the tiles were still being created during the week that Sargen was installing the show. “Because the tiles were still smoldering in the fire pit, the fire needing to extinguish naturally, we waited, realizing it would be the last piece installed!” Sargen recalls. But the wait was worth it.

Plateau Series Relief on Panel by Anne Bullock at Wenaha Gallery
Plateau Series Relief on Panel by Anne Bullock at Wenaha Gallery

“It is a stunning work, and Anne’s wish was that it be placed in a health care facility.”

These wishes are completely in line with who Anne was, Sargen continues, describing her friend and colleague as “so very tender hearted, it seemed that she herself suffered for the pain of others and actively took steps in daily life to ease pain and bring peace.” One means by which Anne accomplished this was through the March of Peace events that she organized in 2008, involving community members in the creation of small, clay “pinch pots” that were placed in an outdoor art installation at the Walla Walla Foundry’s sculpture garden.

David explains, “Anne sought every opportunity to involve community in her art, in ways such as attaching prayers to her bamboo prayer walls, tying personal mementos to a community memory strand, and even using puzzle pieces from second-hand puzzles to make vessels.”

Throughout Anne Bullock’s life, and during the 38 years she worked and created in Walla Walla, community was a driving factor. Whether that community consisted of the town in which she was living, or the memories of the people who had lived in the area centuries beforehand, she devoted her energy, her skill, and her art to acknowledging and honoring the contributions of ordinary, every day people:

“I am compelled to tie, bind, glue, blend, melt, carve, coil, weave, overlap or somehow piece together media in any way materials allow or dictate,” Anne’s artist statement outlines her deep-set beliefs.

“Integrating materials through these processes gives voice to my themes of honoring the earth, its resources, and inhabitants.”

Wenaha GalleryAnne Bullock’s collection of two- and three-dimensional work is the Art Event: Pacific Northwest feature at Wenaha Gallery from February 23, 2015 through March 21, 2015 at Wenaha Gallery’s historic Dayton, WA location, 219 East Main Street.

“Anne had a special connection with the Wenaha Gallery for many years, and I hope this showing of her work here can honor that connection and provide her community of friends the opportunity to remember and appreciate her creative endeavors.” — David Bullock

Contact the gallery by phone at 800.755.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.

Mountain Man Painter — The Landscapes of Jim McNamara

Bend in the River, original oil painting by Wenaha Gallery Artist Jim McNamara.
Bend in the River, original oil painting by Wenaha Gallery Artist Jim McNamara.

Jim McNamara is a man who moves mountains, because that is what landscape painters do.

“Cameras can do a better job at exact duplication,” the Walla Walla fine artist says, “but one of the great advantages of being a painter is the freedom to move elements around to suit the needs of the composition. So if a tree isn’t where I want it to be, I move it.”

McNamara, whose day job until retirement 15 years ago was in public education as a school psychologist, has been drawing and painting all his life, thanks to a bunch of determined women:

Dirt Road, Big Sky by Wenaha Gallery Artist Jim McNamara
Dirt Road, Big Sky by Wenaha Gallery Artist Jim McNamara

“The nuns at St. Bridget Elementary in Omaha saw a spark in me and coaxed my parents into sending me to summer school at Joslyn Art Museum when I was barely old enough to ride the bus,”  McNamara remembers. Art classes continued in high school and college — interspersed with courses in English literature, counseling, and school psychology — and specialized workshops followed throughout adulthood, as McNamara studied under some of today’s outstanding outdoor painters: Jim Lamb, Ned Mueller, Ken Roth, Matt Smith,  John Budacin, and Ralph Oberg.

The result of all the study, eclectic interests, and hard work has been McNamara’s unique style, blending brushstrokes with realism, plein air with studio work, a painterly attitude with attention to detail:

“My colors and shapes are broadly realistic but I prefer to employ a ‘painterly’ style,” McNamara explains. “I think painting is more interesting and involving if it leaves something to the viewer’s imagination.

“I like to see brushstrokes in a finished painting: it adds a textural dimension, and makes the work more fun to look at close up.”

McNamara, who prefers oil but forays into watercolor on occasion, is a consummate landscapist, focusing on broad, sweeping images of the Pacific Northwest and West, which he captures both on scene — en plein air  — and in his studio, inside an old house, built in 1900, with the high ceilings and quantity of windows that prompt other artists to sigh with envy.

“Where I paint is what I imagine was once the master bedroom,” McNamara says. “There are paintings on the walls, as well as art books, paints and brushes set up. I have an iMac with four or five thousand images to keep my mind occupied in the winter, when it’s hard to get outside.”

Trailhead View by Wenaha Gallery artist Jim McNamara
Trailhead View by Wenaha Gallery artist Jim McNamara

With such an ideal set-up, one would think that McNamara would stay in the studio all the time, content with the absence of rain and wind, but the Great Outdoors seductively calls,  and McNamara has painted en plein air from the Rockies to the coast, covering most of the western states in his travels with his wife. His favorite painting experiences involve backpacking to some remote location, setting up his easel, and painting directly from nature.

“Painting outdoors produces the most accurate color and the most spontaneous result,” McNamara says. “But because outdoor conditions are not always ideal in the Northwest, especially in winter, I do rely on reference photographs, which are always taken by me.” Hence, the iMac, with its 5,000 images.

While in the earlier years of his full-time painting McNamara entered juried shows and competitions throughout the  region — the Wallowa Valley Festival of the Arts and the former Walla Walla Carnegie Art center, the latter where he won People’s Choice Award and sold the painting the same day — the artist now concentrates his time on as much painting as he can get in. Most of his sales generate from his home studio, The Fort Walla Walla Winery on Main Street, or Wenaha Gallery in Dayton, with one of the most pleasurably memorable sales being to a collector in France, in Walla Walla for a wine tasting — from one area known for its wines, to another.

“I think representational art always makes a statement because it regards its subject as important and significant,” McNamara reflects upon what he does. “Just the act of intensely looking at a subject for the sometimes lengthy time required to render it gives it significance.

“I believe the natural world deserves being looked at intensely and wordlessly.”

Wenaha GalleryJim McNamara is the Art Event: Pacific Northwest Artist at Wenaha Gallery from December 16, 2014 through January 10, 2015 at Wenaha Gallery’s historic Dayton, WA location, 219 East Main Street.

Contact the gallery by phone at 800.755.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton; phone 509.382.2124; e-mail art@wenaha.com.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.

Birds and Antlers and Frogs — Oh My! The Sculpture Art of Ralph Trethewey

miniature pecan antlers by wenaha gallery artist Ralph Trethewey
Though these antlers are much, much smaller than the original from which they are inspired, they retain the accuracy and attention to detail of full size. Pecan Shell Moose by Ralph Trethewey.

Most people think of pecan shells as something to throw away after eating the nut within. For sculptor Ralph Trethewey, however, the material on the outside is far more valuable, and he has carved, quite literally, a career out of those pecan shells. Credited with discovering a form of sculpture unique in the world, the Walla Walla artist creates miniature masterpieces by carving, with rotary power tools and small knives, Lilliputian antlers, which he mounts to small-scale walnut plaques.

“My grandpa raised pecans in Phoenix, AZ,” Trethewey explains. “We would visit there in the winter, and one time when I picked up the shells I noticed the curvature, which is similar to the outer curvature of a mule deer’s antlers. I made a mental connection, and the next step was making the carving.

“It’s kind of nuts, isn’t it?”

Crazy or not, the resulting original and precision works are in the hands of collectors as unique and distinguished as the artworks themselves: Ripley’s Believe it or Not owns a set, as does contemporary Western artist Bev Doolittle.

“I was antler crazy at a young age,” Trethewey says. Raised in the Mojave Desert of California and near the Wasaatch Mountains of Utah, Trethewey grew up listening to the hunting stories of his father, John Trethewey, who once shot a buck with an eight-point rack on one side and twenty on the other.

“Every time I asked him where those antlers were, he simply said, ‘I just left them out in the cedars because we only needed the meat.'”

Trethewey recalls regularly embarrassing his father by asking total strangers where he could find antlers, and while he received some funny looks, he also picked up good tips, following up on them by looking in gas stations, on garages and fence posts, even straining to peek into bars to see antlers.

“It was a healthy addiction for which no support groups existed.”

Perhaps it’s a good thing no support group existed, because the result was that Trethewey directed his energy, and his passion for antlers, to art, cultivating what he considers a God-given talent for woodcarving into a career as a professional artist which he has been pursuing since 1973.

hand carved wood goldfinch sculpture by wenaha gallery artist Ralph Trethewey
Hand carved from wood and hand painted, Goldfinch by Ralph Trethewey meets the strict standards of approval by experts like the wildlife biologists of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“I began carving as a boy and got affirmation for my first efforts,” Trethewey remembers. “I turned to Utah’s aspen trees and would carve deer from these which sold for $25.”

In addition to miniature antlers made from pecan shells, Trethewey carves full sized antlers in wood, which he reproduces in limited edition cast polymer. He also creates original wood carvings of birds and other wildlife, as well as limited edition bronze sculptures. The next time you’re in downtown Walla Walla, walk to the southeast corner of Main and Third Streets to enjoy The Thinker, a whimsical frog based upon the iconic work of Auguste Rodin.

The various homes for Trethewey’s works are as varied and eclectic as the works themselves, and along with municipal public art and a presence at Ripley’s, Trethewey’s creations — from his realistic carved birds to his signature “Wyoming Wonder” World Record Antler sculptures —  have been purchased by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, musician Hank Williams Jr., and former governor of Oregon Barbara Roberts.

Trethewey has received numerous First Place, Best in Show, and People’s Choice awards in various group exhibitions, and he garnered Best of Show at the 17th Annual American National Miniature Show in 1992. His Thinker sculpture received the Walla Walla Architectural Award. To this point, he has produced 47 limited edition sculptures, many of which are sold out.

“The statements I make (with my art) are basically a love of nature and an attempt to duplicate/interpret realistically its beauty,” Trethewey says.

“Life is all about learning. It postpones the onset of Alzheimer’s.

“In summary, I love what I get to do!”

Trethewey’s many and varied artworks are on display at Wenaha Gallery’s Art Event  in his honor, which runs from April 28 – May 17 at the downtown historic gallery, 219 East Main, Dayton, WA. Contact the gallery by phone at 800.755.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com.

Wenaha Gallery,  located in historic downtown Dayton, Washington,  is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton; phone 509.382.2124; e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery Website: http://www.wenaha.com

Read more about Art Event, our celebration of Pacific Northwest Artists,  here.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.

Van Gogh Lives on — the Art of Jeffrey Hill

 

Venice Canal, framed original oil by Jeffrey Hill.
Venice Canal, framed original oil by Jeffrey Hill.

Van Gogh and wine — they’re both so delightfully European somehow. What starts in Europe, however, doesn’t necessarily stay in Europe, and the Walla Walla area finds itself with its own version of  both:

Artist Jeffrey Hill — whose high color, swirling creations in paint earned him the nickname of Vineyard Van Gogh — celebrates the area’s ripening winemaking tradition with paintings, murals, and sculpture. If you’ve walked through the area at all, you have no doubt seen one of Hill’s works, whether it is the emblematic wine grape picker installed in the front of Walla Walla Community College’s Center for Enology and Viticulture or a mural at a winery tasting room.

“I got in on the ground floor chronicling the history of this Valley’s  growth in grapes and wineries,” Hill, a fourth generation Walla Wallan, explains. “I found success with my paintings, murals, illustrations, fabrications, and sculptures in connection with the burgeoning Walla Walla wine industry.”

From Child Prodigy to Adult Master

Success indeed. Hill’s paintings, sculptures, and murals bedeck more than fifteen different wineries in the area. After winning the Washington Artist of the Year Award at the 2001 Washington Wine Festival, Hill was approached about installing his artwork at the WWCC Enology Center in 2003. Two large panel paintings in the foyer and six larger panel paintings in the reception hall  tell the “Vine to Wine” story of winemaking in the Walla Walla area.

“I was a child prodigy in art beginning in my elementary school days,” Hill says. “At Prospect Point Elementary I was allowed to leave during the middle of the day and walk to Walla Walla High School to study art with Edwin Moser, Wa Hi’s art teacher.

The Artist, sculpture by Jeffrey Hill.
The Artist, sculpture by Jeffrey Hill.

“It was this experience that first allowed me to try my hands at sculpture and oil painting.”

Subsequent years, and hard work, led to scholarships to study with Dick Rasmussen, the then-head of the art department at Whitman College, eventually resulting in Hill’s 1978 graduation from Whitman with double majors in Fine Art and Art History. Hill then accepted a position with Sotheby’s, an exclusive auction house in London, UK, where he furthered his fine art studies.

Walla Walla does not give up its homegrown talent easily, however, and after a career in Seattle as an appraiser and fine art dealer, Hill found himself back on the family farm, Forgotten Hills, where he and his wife Kathryn planted a three-acre plot of Merlot.

“We had no idea if this would be successful,” Hill remembers, and while they waited, Hill decided to try his hand at painting the vineyards of the area — their landscapes, their workers, their people. What he created resonated quickly and powerfully with area merchants and residents, and winemaking took a back seat to capturing the process, in paint and bronze.

Hill’s paintings are bold, both in brush technique and color, and he captures a landscape, or an interior, with a sweeping sense of movement and energy. Pure pigments of color demand the viewer’s attention and draw him into the action. Even when the subject matter is still, there is movement.

After a recent trip to Europe, Hill chronicled the experience in oil and acrylic, and four of these paintings, which have never yet been shown, are on display at Wenaha Gallery, Dayton, WA, where Hill is the featured Art Event artist from Monday, April 14 through Saturday, May 3. Also featured will be Hill’s new sculpture, The Artist, in its debut to the public.

“I am very proud and excited that Wenaha will offer this piece for the first time,” Hill says.

The Artist is a culmination of Walla Walla and Whitman themes. Here is the consummate painter in the moment of inspiration, depicting a Walla Walla vineyard scene.

“He paints en plein aire, possibly in the vineyard. He is possibly a Whitman College graduate, possibly a native son.”

A sculpture of a native son, by a native son, radiating a European feeling, in a Pacific Northwest setting. How delightfully Walla Walla.

www.Wenaha.com

Gallery artist at Wenaha Gallery in Dayton, WA, Jeffrey Hill is the featured Pacific Northwest artists for Art Event, a three-week showcasing of his works, beginning Monday, April 14, at the gallery. Hill’s Art Event runs through Saturday, May 3.

Wenaha Gallery,  located in historic downtown Dayton, Washington,  is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton; phone 509.382.2124; e-mail art@wenaha.com.  

Read more about Art Event, our celebration of Pacific Northwest Artists,  here.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.