Pamplin Media Group – Nature art dominates the Sitka Art Invitational

The coastal haven for serious artists has moved its annual group show to the Oregon Contemporary, keeping the animal and plant theme.

PHOTO COURTESY: RYAN PIERCE - Ryan Pearce's work is featured in the nature-themed annual art sale benefiting the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, October 14-16 at the Oregon Contemporary.

The Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, on the waterfront in Otis, Oregon, is holding its annual Art Invitational (October 14-16). In North Portland for the first time. The show at Oregon Contemporary, Kenton’s trendy NoPo gallery, will host some of Oregon’s best working artists and works that fit Sitka’s ongoing theme: Nature.

Sitka hosts workshops, retreats and residencies throughout the year in its beautiful setting on Cascade Head, just north of Lincoln City. The works are mostly original paintings and sculptures, but with some prints.

Ryan Pierce, a member of the Sitka Board of Directors, has been through the Sitka Printmaking Workshops twice and this year is displaying prints to showcase Sitka’s printmaking prowess. In 2010 he made prints with master printmaker Julia D’Amario of Case Editions in New York. It was part of Jordan Schnitzer’s graphic residency. “They’re looking for artists who aren’t printmakers yet, but whose work they think will translate well,” Pierce said. “They really support you while you’re playing, and then you move pretty quickly to create a finished piece of work.”

Now at Pacific Northwest College of Art, last year Pierce taught printmaking at Southern Oregon University Ashland and realized how much he learned in Sitka. Since all of his paintings begin with drawings on canvas, he views printmaking, where he engraves his drawings on plate, as related to his craft. “It’s not that far from some of the masking techniques I use in my paintings on canvas.”

Professional intervention helped.

“It came at a really crucial time for me because I was pretty exhausted and lost sight of my real job as an artist. It was a great confidence booster. The residencies have this wonderful combination of time away where you can relax and reflect, but there’s also this recognition of the value of artists, and I’ve done a lot of work there.” Part of the deal is that Sitka keeps half of the prints to sells them at fundraisers like the Invitational.However, most of the money from the original paintings sold goes to the artists.

He fondly remembers the hiking, the elk, the Sitka spruce, the ocean at Cascade Head…

“It’s a beautiful piece of property (with) a small community of friends coming from all over the world to work together and build community. It’s like a little hobbit shire of scattered buildings under the giant trees,” Pearce said.

PHOTO COURTESY: AVANTIKA BAWA - Avantika Bawa's art is usually conceptual, but she's part of a nature-themed show raising funds for the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, Oct. 14-16 at the Oregon Contemporary.

Everyone lends a hand

Portland-based graphic designer Brian Potter is showing three invitational monoprints, which are his favorite medium. “They fit the format for the show.” The Sitka jury liked his animal prints or abstract interpretations of natural landscapes. “This year they chose a rooster, a cow skull and a random skull with a tiger in it.” I don’t see tigers on the shore, but there are animal qualities!’

Monoprints are not necessarily monochrome. You mix colored ink on a Perspex plate, place the paper on top of it, then run it through the press to transfer the image.

“Everything you put through the press is gone, so it’s mono. I love it because you can’t overdo it. It’s done. It’s not like an etching where you add more highlights and print it again.”

In his day job, Pierce designed Sitka’s catalog for free. Sitka uses all kinds of volunteer labor, drawing on a reservoir of goodwill.

“The Sitka Invitational is a great showcase for Oregon artists. I’ve taken classes with a lot of these people over the years.”

Pierce is introduced to Sitka by Bill Park, with whom he shares studio space. Park runs the press where Pearce’s graphic design collective makes its prints. Pierce designed banners that hung in the Portland Art Museum, and Park painted them by hand. “He has been my inspiration to stay involved with Sitka.”

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