Friday, September 2, 2011

The many faces of Silver Creek Preserve

Painters pay tribute to Blaine County wetlands

Express Staff Writer

Courtesy image “Light on Silver Creek,” by James Cook.

Silver Creek Preserve has long enticed visitors. Its scenery often ends up in home slide shows as one of the wonders of an Idaho vacation, and frequently in the mental snapshots that artists take back to their studios.

The preserve, south of Bellevue near Picabo, celebrates 30 years of history this summer. Some of its storied defenders, like Picabo farmer Bud Purdy, are growing older. To continue engaging new saviors and fans of the area, the challenge is to continue to enlighten and reach those who will love the creek for the feel of the earth beneath their boots or for the emotion it evokes when presented through the keen eyes of an artist.

Ketchum gallery owner and Idaho girl Gail Severn and fly-fishing devotee and artist James Cook share a passion for the preserve.

"I grew up fishing in Silver Creek," she said. "I have a lifelong connection there and Jim has loved it since he first fished there. It has taken a lot of hard work to restore and conserve the area and we want to honor the energy and time that has been given with an exhibition."

Tonight, Sept. 2, the Gail Severn Gallery will open an exhibition of Cook's latest works dedicated to the preserve. Severn said that while Cook is an international sensation for his art, every four years or so he engages in a nostalgic focus on the preserve. Cook uses thick oil paint to create his colorful images, capturing the seasons of summer, fall and winter.

A portion of the proceeds from the exhibit will be donated to the Silver Creek Preservation Fund. The series will run through October at the gallery at 400 First Ave. in Ketchum.

Cook was introduced to the area by Bill Janss, founder of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, who took him fishing after hosting him as a visiting artist at the fledgling center. Severn began representing his work shortly thereafter. She said the allure of his pieces comes from a balance of realism, abstract expressionism and impressionism.

Premiering alongside Cook is naturalist and encaustic painter Christopher Reilly. He will join Severn in a historical presentation on the preserve around Cook's works, and then will speak on the work he does with sculpted molten wax and paint.

"There aren't a lot of artists willing to share their secrets of how they do things," Severn said of Reilly. "But he is very open and warm. It's always so fun to hear what the artist's thought processes were, but it's really a complex and fascinating process to watch too."

Severn described the process as akin to sculpting. Reilly will be adding imagery to something he's been working on for several months at his Southern California studio.

His wife, Michelle Haglund, also has work at the gallery. Both husband and wife depict scenes from nature, with birds, butterflies and aquatic life in their work. As much as they love the valley, Severn said, Cook and Reilly need more year-round environments to work in so as not to be trapped indoors with some of the toxic materials required for their art.

Cook was scheduled to appear as well, but had an accident at his home in Arizona. Severn will step in for him.

The event is free and open to everyone.

Jennifer Liebrum:

Encaustic painter demo

Dated to as far back as the fourth century B.C. , the encaustic technique continues to evolve in the hands of today's artists. Greek shipbuilders used hot wax to fill the cracks in their ships. Later, color was added and the waxed hulls of ships became canvas for the art form known today as encaustic. California artist Christopher Reilly will explain the history and demonstrate the complex method on Saturday, Sept. 3, at 10 a.m. during a free public event celebrating the opening of his show "Stillness" at Gail Severn Gallery.

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