An art exhibit opening today at the Douglas County Museum examines the role of nature in art, and vice versa.
“Wild Impressions,” featuring work by six Northwest artists, opens with a reception from 4 to 6 p.m. in the museum gallery. The exhibit marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Wilderness Act, which created a legal definition in America for wilderness.
The featured artists include several Douglas County women, along with Southern Oregon painter Becky Evans and Aberdeen, Washington, artist Erik Sandgren.
Labor on the selected pieces began in June, when the local contingent took to Umpqua National Forest in search of inspiration. Artists including Susan Rudisill of Idleyld Park spent two days hiking and talking long into the night about what they had seen, Rudisill said.
“That experience informed this exhibit,” she said.
Rudisill is exhibiting three acrylic paintings. One depicts the artist as explorer. In another — depicting the artist’s connection to nature — a plein air painter’s leg appears to be growing from a rocky streamside. The third painting is of Boulder Cave in the Boulder Creek Wilderness. Humans have been drawing on its walls for more than 800 years.
At first, the prospect of capturing a place in nature popular to so many people was intimidating, Rudisill said. But in the end, the experience instilled in her a feeling of community with centuries of other artists, she said.
Rudisill spoke of artists who helped spark interest in the West, including painter Thomas Moran. He’s credited with helping persuade Congress in 1872 to create the nation’s first national park, Yellowstone. Moran’s work, along with that of other landscape artists, also helped show Americans that the unsettled frontier could be awe-inspiring, as well as inhospitable to human outsiders, Rudisill said.
The museum regularly hosts artistic installations along with its educational offerings, said museum Director Gardner Chappell. But the art must relate to the local environment, he said.
“The museum is always striving to reflect the community it serves,” Chappell said.
• You can reach reporter Garrett Andrews at 541-957-4218 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.