Oregon Coast artists

Remembering a ‘poet with a paintbrush’

"You have this incredible world of beauty right out your front door": Michael Gibbons, who died at 76, was a legend along the Yaquina River.

 Artist Michael Gibbons liked to share the story of a day when he was teaching a painting class by the Yaquina River. An older fellow approached and asked, “What are you doing?”

“I’m painting,” Michael answered.

“An artist?” the man questioned.

 “I guess you could say that,” Michael said. The man looked at him, “Had one of them in town once; couldn’t make a living.” And he turned and walked away.

 Michael laughed when he told the story, but it was no doubt not the first time he heard a discouraging comment. Nonetheless, it deterred him not in the least. In Toledo, the Oregon mill town of less than 3,500 where he lived, the idea of creating an artist’s community may have sounded foolish to some, yet that was exactly what the self-described “poet with a paintbrush” did. At one time, some 15 artists of various mediums created their art in the town seven miles from the coast.

Michael Gibbons, “Autumn View in Salt River Canyon,” oil, 6 x 8 inches.

 Michael Gibbons died at the age of 76 on July 2 due to complications from a stroke he suffered in 2016, bringing to an end nearly four decades as the area’s leading champion of the arts. He is credited with founding Toledo’s annual Labor Day Art Walk and establishing the Yaquina River Museum of Art, and was instrumental in bringing chamber music concerts to town.

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Michael A. Gibbons, 1943-2020

The longtime Oregon artist, who helped spark the creation of Toledo's arts colony, has a show at the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg

Longtime Oregon artist Michael A. Gibbons died July 2 at his home in Toledo, from complications following a stroke in 2016. He was 76. Born in Portland, he moved to the Oregon Coast when he was 25 and was instrumental in the establishment of Toledo as something of an artists’ colony, with several studios and galleries and the annual Labor Day Art Walk.

According to his online obituary, Gibbons was inspired as an art student by the landscape paintings of the 19th century French artist Corot. “I had to paint things that struck people like that,” the obituary quotes him as saying in a 2014 newspaper interview. “I saw dawn, that silvery morning light and soft colors. They weren’t garish. It was like looking at a prayer.”

Michael A. Gibbons and his wife, Judith “Judy” Mortenson, in an undated photo via Bateman Funeral Home.

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‘Au Naturel’: Art laid bare

Three North Coast artists are included in an Astoria show celebrating a universal: "We all necessarily inhabit our own bodies"

The first time Drea Frost walked into a college art class, it was not as an artist but as a model for a nude-drawing class. She did it for the money, but wound up with so much more. Now, Frost is part of the exhibit Au Naturel: The Nude in the 21st Century – this time as a featured artist. She’s one of three North Coast artists chosen to display their work.

The 14th annual international juried exhibit is on display through March 12 in Clatsop Community College’s Royal Nebeker Art Gallery. A reception is set for 6 p.m. Feb. 20 in the Astoria gallery.

Featuring 44 pieces by 32 artists from 14 states and Canada, the exhibit drew more than 500 submissions. Portland artist Henk Pander selected the art to be included in the show. In his juror’s statement, Pander wrote that he chose work that reflects “quality, originality, power, humanism and lack of cliché.”

“Finding a Way Through Fear,” by Drea Frost of Cannon Beach (acrylic on board, 24 by 36 inches) is one of 44 pieces in this year’s “Au Naturel: The Nude in the 21st Century” show.

Founder and CCC art instructor Kristin Shauck, who was featured recently in ArtsWatch’s Vision 2020 series, conceived of the show as a way to bring original works by contemporary practicing artists to campus for students to study for an extended period, she said.

The show, she said, is meant to inspire not only art students, particularly in the life-drawing class, but also a wider audience, especially practicing figurative artists in the area’s vibrant arts community. “This show celebrates the age-old tradition of representing the nude human form,” she added, “which is a subject that artists have been drawn to since the dawn of time because it resonates with each and every one of us as humans — we all necessarily inhabit our own bodies.”

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