Where Are We?

Contemporary Interpretations of Landscape Art:  Jill Baker, Nancy Helmsworth and Rebecca Mannheimer

December 27, 2017- February 1, 2018

  • Reception Thursday, January 4, 5:30 – 7:30 pm
  • Brown Bag Art Talk: Thursday, January 11 @ noon
  • January CAW: Thursday, January 18, 4:00 – 8:00 pm

3 women artists investigate contemporary possibilities in interpretation and interaction with the landscape in visual art, actively searching for a new approach and experience.

New interpretations of the old landscape related theme keep us connected with our existing environment, while creating current, contemporary ways to experience that environment.

Landscape art is prevalent in the Northwest and with reason. The landscape is beautiful and varied, ranging from coastal views, through mountains and the lush & fertile Willamette Valley to culminate in the high desert of Eastern Oregon.

With “Where Are We” we wish to honor the longstanding tradition of landscape painting while showing innovative interpretations and contemporary opportunities in creative expression. We feel it is important to keep exploring new, contemporary ways in expressing how we respond to our surroundings; an evolving societal reality requires a changed attitude.

The series of drawings and video by Jill Baker, interdisciplinary artist and educator based in Corvallis really stretch the idea of landscape art and is mostly conceptual in character. Her work is inspired by Desert Notes, essays by Barry Lopez, and visits to the desert. Baker’s projects often involve ‘finding her way’ in landscapes, or finding something where there is seemingly nothing. Drawing, video, and photographs exist as a collection of marks and actions, sketches, or pauses. Many of these notes (notes to a landscape) reveal small details or objects or views that Baker encounters. They are glimpses at a landscape more intimate than the vast and open one always beyond. A self description of her work is as follows:

This is what I found today: twelve twigs. Twenty-four rocks. One metal hook. Two dried animal droppings. One piece of metal. I am looking closely. I am amazed at small wonders. It is a privilege to sit here and bury my hands in the rocks, or dig in the earth, or feel the textures of stone, wood, sand, and the air around them. Forest. Ocean. Desert. Sky.”

Portland painter Nancy Helmsworth uses a square format for her “landscapes”, featuring a central image and a horizon line /landscape as her system within to explore and create. These “constructs” are based on her photographic collection. To grow artistically she feels the need to challenge her skills and understandings. In this series Helmsworth investigates the compositional challenge she posed herself. She also expanded her color palette, and surface treatment playing with acrylic and the velvet flatness of “Flashe.” (Flashe is an extra fine, vinyl-based professional grade of matte permanent colors. It offers optical characteristics similar to gouache, old tempera paints and primitive painting grounds – the result is matte, velvety and opaque.)

The vignettes are meaningful in a literal or associative context to her personally. These paintings are quite formal in color and composition but originated in a very personal space.  Helmsworth says:

“Our lives are time bound, our influence and evidence of our existence is limited and fleeting. I am drawn to the images of time, weathered rocks, clouds, temporary sculptures, debris, furniture, buildings and barriers. I delight in the contrast and contradiction of icons and materials from vastly differing periods and places.”

In the work for the “Where Are We” exhibit, Rebecca Mannheimer explores landscape as an internal process, i.e. an internal landscape. Her work has a subtle reference to the Willamette Valley. It has influenced her sense of place, the light, the change of seasons, and the immediacy of nature. Mannheimer is interested in how a sense of place informs us, how we think, how we perceive who we are, our interconnectedness. In this body of work she explores how this information is filtered, how to juxtapose past and present.

As Mannheimer explains it:

“I take from a collection of objects and shapes that come from a personal reference or experience. In the process of making art I want to take what can be identifiable and shift it, take it out of context and reframe it, giving it new meaning. I like to explore beyond the perceived reference in the narrative of these pieces, abstract them, alter their immediate reference and create a pause from the viewer.

Helmsworth  Bird Market and John Day Hills

Bird Market and John Day Hills

Mannheimer "ShadowBee"