40 years and 363 miles along the Oregon Coast

A show at the Newport Visual Arts Center celebrates the rambling stretch from Astoria to Brookings in a variety of media including painting, woodwork and film

Some 360-odd miles of the Oregon Coast are condensed this late summer into one modest building set just a hop above Nye Beach. Art 363: Representing the Oregon Coast, on display throughout the Newport Visual Arts Center’s galleries, features work depicting the rambling length of the Oregon Coast, from Brookings to Astoria. I talked with three of the artists involved for a look behind the pieces.

Erik Sandgren (left) and his father, Nelson Sandgren, paint at Bandon in 2004, two years before the elder Sandgren’s death. The Sandgren Coast PaintOut began in 1978 as an OSU summer watercolor course taught by Nelson Sandgren. Photo by: Kathryn Cotnoir
Erik Sandgren (left) and his father, Nelson Sandgren, paint at Bandon in 2004, two years before the elder Sandgren’s death. The Sandgren Coast PaintOut began in 1978 as an OSU summer watercolor course taught by Nelson Sandgren. Photo by: Kathryn Cotnoir

The Sandgren Coast PaintOut Project celebrated 40 years this summer. More than 40 artists who have taken part in the plein air paintout over that time share an exhibit in the Runyon Gallery.

Artist Nelson Sandgren (1917-2006) started PaintOut as an extension class through Oregon State University, where he taught for 38 years. It has evolved under his son, Erik Sandgren, into a two-week, informal summer gathering where subject matter varies from sea to forest, headlands to harbors, streams and rivers, beaches and boats, wave-swept rocks, seabirds, and lighthouses.

"Newport Bridge," by Bets Cole, is one of the paintings produced during the Sandgren Coast PaintOut.
“Newport Bridge,” by Bets Cole, is a product of the Sandgren Coast PaintOut.

“It’s a select group of people who are interested in learning,” Erik Sandgren said. “We welcome people who are serious about painting and of all levels of experience. We have professional painters and artists, skilled amateurs, newbies. They offer camaraderie, critique, and opportunities to see how other serious painters handle their gear and painting problems on site, sometimes in adverse conditions created by sun, rain, or wind. I would describe them all as intrepid.”

PaintOut originally was held in Newport, but now moves to various spots along the length of the coast. Sandgren doesn’t advertise it; rather, he says, it advertises itself. Some artists join for a day or two, others for the entire two weeks.

"South of Florence," by George Kosanovic, is a PaintOut piece included in the Newport show.
“South of Florence,” by George Kosanovic, is a PaintOut piece included in the Newport show.

PaintOut is free for all to participate; Sandgren also teaches a paid, three-day workshop during the event. Next year’s PaintOut is July 13-25.

“Every year, the attendance for all or part of PaintOut is 70 to 90 people,” he said. “Over the years, we’ve brought a lot of people to the coast. It’s an interesting group of people. It’s one of the reasons I keep doing it – in conjunction with this fabulous landscape – is it’s just a great plus for life.”

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Mike Brown’s segmented wood-turned vase not only was inspired by the coast, but also largely formed from it. It’s part of the Ode to the Tides exhibit, celebrating coastal estuaries and tide pools and the life that inhabits them, in the Visual Arts Center through Sept. 26.

The vase is made from Oregon Myrtlewood, native to the state’s southern coast, with sand, sunsets, and shells displayed behind glass-covered portholes.

Mike Brown’s segmented wood vase, “Oregon Coast Tidepools and Sunset,” includes beach sunsets visible through portholes.
Mike Brown’s segmented wood vase, “Oregon Coast Tidepools and Sunset,” includes beach sunsets visible through portholes.

“I take pictures of the sunset when we go on vacations,” Brown said. “I had them stashed away on the computer. I came up with porthole design where I could put sunset pictures behind each one. Each one of the portholes has at least one shell from each one of the beaches: Sunset Bay State Park in Southern Oregon; one from the Newport area; one from Yachats; and one I kind of cheated on from Long Beach, Washington.”

Brown’s piece, titled Oregon Coast Sunsets and Tide Pools, features sunsets made of redheart and yellowheart wood and a price tag of $1,200.

Ode to the Tides is a traveling exhibit sponsored by The Wetlands Conservancy. Other Lincoln Country artists include Duncan Berry of Otis; Carol Cassidy, Roy Lowe, and Mark Williams of Waldport; Michael Gibbons of Toledo; and Nora Sherwood of Lincoln City.

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The Wandering Reel Traveling Film Festival is back in town, this time with seven Ocean Shorts shown in a 53-minute loop in the media room of the Visual Arts Center. The films can be viewed individually, all together, or in parts, and include three documentaries and four art films.

“A Tangled Tale,” one of the “Ocean Shorts,” is a sand-animation romance involving two hooked fish.
“A Tangled Tale,” one of the “Ocean Shorts,” is a sand-animation romance involving two hooked fish.

“You don’t think of the film as a visual art in the same way you do a painting or sculpture or photography, but it’s all there,” said Michael Harrington, director/curator of the festival and an Oregon Coast native. “It’s all related. You can’t really have a film like these without those other elements first.

“When I curate these programs, I’m not only trying to expose people to a type of art film that they probably  haven’t seen before, but also to show films that have something important to say. Sometimes that is as simple as a different way to think about love. Showing a short film can inspire change in the world.”

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While we’re in Newport, one last note: Pianist George Winston will play the Newport Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 6. Winston’s appearance in Newport is a fundraiser benefiting the Entertain the Future! Capital Campaign to expand and enhance the center. For Preferred Seating tickets at $50 or General Seating tickets at $40, call the PAC Box Office at 541-265-2787, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, or purchase online.

Winston has requested that along with their ticket, attendees bring non-perishable food items for the Lincoln County food bank.

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This story is supported in part by a grant from the Oregon Cultural Trust, investing in Oregon’s arts, humanities and heritage, and the Lincoln County Cultural Coalition.

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