The Oregon Coast Council for the Arts presents the exhibition, “Wildfire Smoke,” by Kendra Larson from August 7 to September 25 in the Upstairs Gallery at the Newport Visual Center. A Portland-based artist, Larson will present a series of oil pastel drawings as a meditation on the fires and smoke that overtook Oregon in the summer of 2020. An informal gallery opening for “Wildfire Smoke,” will be held at the VAC (777 NW Beach Dr.) on Saturday, August 7, noon-4pm, with the new exhibiting artists speaking at 2pm.
Kendra Larson maintains a primary artistic focus on the ephemerality of Pacific Northwest landscapes. Her paintings and drawings explore historical ideas of the Landscape, Romanticism, environmentalism, and wonder evoked by the natural world. Her current body of work focuses on making visible the fleeting qualities that add to our understanding of place: the role smoke, fire, clouds, snow, movement, sound, and fireworks play in nature.
“The drawings in the Newport exhibit are of the wildfires. This subject brings to mind death, rebirth, healing, the sublime, and natures’ role in our health and well-being,” Larson says. “When the wildfires hit last year I was deeply moved by the destruction. The smoke was a constant reminder of the loss of Detroit, a place we have visited every summer since I was a kid. I found a photo from that fire and drew it. Noticing that the color was off, I drew it again. Then again to capture a more accurate feeling. After that, I just kept drawing the same scene almost daily.”
“Oil pastels are very physical,” Larson continues. “It’s not like painting with a brush in that there is nothing that separates my hand from the material. Perhaps this visceral process is a healthy antidote to all the time I spent on Zoom last year.”
Originally from Salem, Larson received her BFA from the Pacific NW College of Art and an MFA in painting from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She has shown her work in venues in the United States and New Zealand, including the Art Gym, PDX Contemporary, Blackfish Gallery, the Hoffman Gallery at Lewis & Clark College (Portland), The Arts Center (Corvallis), the Milk Factory (Chicago) and the Nash Gallery (Minneapolis). Larson is a past Signal Fire, Caldera, Sitka, and New Pacific Studios (Masterton, New Zealand) artist in resident. She is represented by Augen Gallery in Portland, OR and teaches at Portland State University and PNCA. Recently she was awarded both a Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC) Project Grant and Oregon Arts Commission Career Opportunity Grant. When not painting she can be found hosting an art podcast with her sister called Art Gab (http://stumptowncreative.com/).
The Upstairs Gallery is open Wednesday-Saturday, noon to 4pm.
The Newport Visual Arts Center adheres to all health and safety protocol provided by the Governor’s Office as well as the City of Newport. OCCA currently recommends that all visitors to the VAC wear masks while in the building.
The Oregon Coast Council for the Arts manages the Newport Visual Arts Center and the Newport Performing Arts Center, and serves as the regional arts council for Oregon’s seven coastal counties.