By Laurelle Walsh
Three Methow Valley artists — Lauralee Northcott, Dennis Kirkland and Cliff Schwab — present their recent work in a show titled “Earth, Wind and Fire” that opens this week at the Winthrop Gallery, located at 237 Riverside Ave.
An artists’ reception will be held at the gallery on Saturday (July 12) from 5 – 7 p.m. The show runs through Aug. 18. For more information contact the gallery at 996-3925 or go to www.winthropgallery.com.
From the tiniest details in Northcott’s pine needle baskets, to the weathered wood of Schwab’s tables and benches, to the breathtaking Icelandic landscapes captured through the lens of Kirkland’s Nikon, the scope of the exhibit will require the viewer to stand back, examine closely, and see the pieces from many points of view.
“Each of us works with the elements of the earth in a natural sense,” said Northcott of the show’s title. “Cliff of course is a master of wood. His work features the natural nuances of the wood itself. The wood is changed by the earth, wind and sometimes fire.
“My work with pine needles is also clearly related to the changes made by the natural world; the needles vary greatly, and of course I use natural stones as well,” Northcott added.
“Lauralee and Cliff are using natural materials to create their art and I am showing landscape photos of Iceland, known as ‘The Land of Fire and Ice,’” said Kirkland.
Kirkland traveled to that island nation last fall with the goal of capturing as much of the “stunning” scenery of Iceland as he could, he said. A high-resolution Nikon D800E combines with the artist’s eye for composition, perspective and lighting to produce razor-sharp images of flowing water, basalt rock formations, and native plants at the peak of fall color.
Kirkland prints the digital images on canvas using a wide-format inkjet printer.
Adventure travel was involved in many of Kirkland’s shots of the rugged country. For the 20”x30” print titled “Litlanesfoss,” featuring a bird’s eye view of a cascade plunging through columnar basalt, Kirkland hiked up to “a small ledge at the edge of a several-hundred-foot-high cliff overlooking the waterfall and carefully positioned my tripod as close as I could to the face of the cliff to take the shot,” he said.
While Schwab stayed closer to home to procure the wood for his pine and fir furniture, sourcing the materials took him to a defunct Idaho granary, and to the old barn walls of a Methow Valley ranch. “The origin of the wood I use is from the earth, and the reclaimed material has been weathered by the elements, including sun, wind and rain,” Schwab said.
The granary planks became a pine writing desk with deep golden tones, and Schwab turned the silver-toned barn wood into a two-drawer storage bench. “The pieces are one of a kind with their own unique character — color variations, knots and unusual grain patterns,” he added.
Giving the materials “a second life” as high-quality furniture is what inspires his work, Schwab said.
Northcott weaves beads, fossils, horse conches and semi-precious stones into her baskets, created by bundling and wrapping long ponderosa pine needles and spiraling them with colorful threads into bowl-shaped vessels. Sometimes the needles are dyed to add an extra element of color.
The 30 baskets in the show have taken more than a year to create, Northcott said, and the embellishments, patterns and subtle variations in shape make each one unique.
Northcott — best known as a songwriter and musician — expresses her feelings about her basketry through a poem that she includes with each of her creations:
Smell the Methow
in her pine needles.
It is the scent
of season and home.
Follow these winding coils,
let them hold memories.
Here are joys and sorrows
of days lived well.
Take this piece of the valley
from my heart to yours.