Monday, July 2, 2018

A Love Affair with Landscape

by Lorena Pugh, painter

I have worked for years as a contemporary still life artist, rethinking the traditionally narrow definition of still life. I've enjoyed a comfortable degree of success, particularly for my four-foot pears wrapped in translucent tissue. Being a mid-career artist with national or international recognition, as I am, switching subject matter is a big deal after working for years to gain a following.

But it was love. A love affair that began two and a half years ago in a rural village in France, where I painted the beautiful landscape for seven weeks. Coming home to Narragansett Bay, I saw endless opportunities to grow as a landscape painter. I wanted to paint big waves and little coves, octopi and cormorants. I reached out to Save the Bay about some kind of collaboration for a show.

I thought of Save the Bay because in the summer of 1986, I did my first swim across Narragansett Bay. That was in the early days when kayaks and wetsuits weren’t ubiquitous. You dodged ores from 100+ rowboats and shivered in your skimpy suit, but it was wonderful, and I was hooked on open-water swimming. Over the years, I have developed a deep appreciation for all that Save the Bay does to make our Bay a good place to dive into.

Supporting Save the Bay with my paint strokes as well as my swim strokes meant we needed a venue, preferably a large space for those BIG waves I wanted to paint. The art gods smiled on us, because in a matter of weeks, the director of Dryden Gallery in Providence asked if I would like a solo show in their Grand Gallery—300 liner feet of wall space for paintings I had yet to create. I said yes, and grasping the enormity of what I just agreed to, nearly blacked out.

Dryden Gallery was more than happy to share proceeds with Save the Bay and so the biggest professional undertaking of my life began.

I started painting small plein air pieces in January 2017. Plein air painting is done outside, entirely at the sight, and over the past year and a half, I have relished spending time just looking and recording what I see along the shores, observing the changes in the water and air and the migration of life around the Bay.

Over the winter, I finally got those BIG, life-sized waves out of my head and onto canvas. One is 24 feet; the other is 16 feet. And a painting of a cloud reaches about 10 feet.
I bought a nautical map of Narragansett Bay and have put stickers in areas I have painted and in areas I want to paint. It will be included in the show so guests can find where each painting originated.

Now, with the good weather and only three months until the October 6th opening, I am heading back out to paint like the wind!

I will have close to 200 paintings by October, yet there are hundreds more I would love to paint. Our Bay is so rich with life and beauty; I hope you will come celebrate that with me at Dryden Gallery on October 6 for the benefit of Save The Bay and Narragansett Bay.

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