“Backroad Cruzin’” by Paula Christen

“Backroad Cruzin’” by Paula Christen


Mid-summer and the northern hemisphere is governed by the sun: long, light-filled days and warm starry nights; bursts of green growth and quickly ripening fruit; the glint of light on clear water; and the warm, easy enjoyment of life al fresco.

Three member artists of the Winthrop Gallery give special attention to the life of summer in the new show, “Under the Sun: New Work by Paula Christen, Carol McMillan, and Dennis O’Callaghan,” opening today (July 17) at the cooperative gallery in downtown Winthrop.

An opening reception will be held on Saturday (July 20), from 6-8 p.m. at the gallery, with refreshments and a chance to talk to the artists about their work.

Paula Christen playfully evokes the sensual experiences of summer in five sunny watercolors – one for each of the five senses. A narrative goes along with each piece. “There’s always a story that goes with each painting,” Christen said.

“Morning Marsh” by Carol McMillan

“Morning Marsh” by Carol McMillan

“Backroad Cruzin’” – representing the sense of sight – was inspired by an old homestead at Pearrygin Lake, and tells the story of “people coming back home, visiting old haunts, seeing if anything has changed,” Christen said. In the painting, two men in baseball caps and Hawaiian shirts slowly pedal a pair of old bicycles past a weathered white house under grand, old trees. An apron-clad woman waves at them from the porch.

For the sense of taste, Christen painted “Doubly Delicious,” which features two senior ladies eating ice cream cones on a park bench while “checking out an old guy.”

“If this one never sold, I’d be OK with that,” Christen said.

Christen worked from a photo of her father at a barbecue grill for a piece she dubbed “Eau de August,” evoking the “quintessential smell of summer – barbecue,” she said.

The sense of sound is depicted in a thunderstorm as experienced from a fire lookout, and the sense of touch by the feel of sunlight on your shoulders. “You’ve finally gotten to the lake and now you are taking a rest,” Christen said.

Sensory experiences also provide inspiration for plein aire painter Carol McMillan.

“I love to paint under the sun,” McMillan said. “Outdoor painting links me with the soul of the subject. The sounds and odors mingle while I enjoy the various forms of wildlife in the area.”

McMillan incorporates collage elements into her watercolors to add excitement, she said. “When I paint a scene, I collect bits from that location and bring them home with me.”

McMillan uses on-site water from her outdoor painting location to mix her colors and “bring a bit of the place into the work.” She also presses and dries objects such as pine needles, leaves and flowers and glues them onto her painting when the paint has dried.

“The paintings gain a three-dimensional quality and seem to come to life when I add to them bits of themselves. Perhaps it’s just a tiny amount of the spirit of the scene that enters with those small additions,” McMillan said.

“Lewis Lake” by Dennis O’Callaghan

“Lewis Lake” by Dennis O’Callaghan

Photographer Dennis O’Callaghan captures summer images during his wanderings around the hills and meadows of the Methow Valley and the high mountain trails of the North Cascades.

The former backcountry skier and mountaineer started taking his camera with him into the wilderness around 45 years ago, he said, and has developed his avocation in the decades since.

O’Callaghan uses a digital SLR camera to “capture moments in time” from wide-angle to telephoto to macro images.

He experimented with photographic printing on aluminum to create his 11-by-14-inch work called “Methow Festival” – an image that was originally used in a poster for the first Methow Music Festival, O’Callaghan said. “The Sawtooths in the distance and the balsamroots in the foreground are almost iridescent,” he said.

O’Callaghan’s 12-by-18-inch photo titled “Lewis Lake” was shot from a vantage point above the turquoise basin left behind by the now-vanished Lewis Glacier, he said. Summiting Black Peak and fishing at Wing Lake – a tarn on a ledge above Lewis – were other highlights of that memorable summer trip, O’Callaghan said.

“Under the Sun” runs until Sept. 2. The Winthrop Gallery, located at 237 Riverside Ave. is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. For more information contact the gallery at 996-3925 or go to the website at www.winthropgallery.com.