A Memory --- It was May 8th, 2004. The first look at the plein air paintings of the Sea to Shining Sea Exhibition at the Haggin Museum leaves one speechless. Only with closer inspection does one begin to take note of the process of each painter and how this collection is a melting pot of distinguished flavors: some loose and painterly, others tight and realistic; some modern, some classical. Some were complex with color, yet others quite tonalistic. But all characteristic in their own way, with a unique vision- depicting scenes of individual relevance with their own regional style of painting. Here we have a seamless blend of the talent and mastery from across the nation that has undoubtedly made this exhibition a success. Behind each painting should be a label: “Warning, not suitable for pre-fab homes, office cubicles or rooms at Motel 6. Hangs equally well on a neutral white wall or one painted with Ralph Lauren Suede Finish.”
I had arrived Stockton earlier that day with my studio-mate and instructor, Camille Przewodek. She had been graciously introducing me to those I hadn’t had the opportunity of meeting until now. These introductions continued throughout the afternoon and into the evening. And in the occasional lapses away from my trusted side-kick, I had intrepidly introduced myself to such well-knowns as Albert Handell and Clyde Aspevig, using my safe, quiet demeanor, while anonymously calling myself, “Carole” (only later to reveal myself as a devoted plein air student). I would receive some brilliant reply such as, “aren’t we all”, and finally I would add, “Oh yes, can I take your picture for Plein Air Magazine?”
The day started before the sun. Camille and I reached downtown Stockton at around 8:30 am, just in time to mingle with a few painters prior to their setting up easels for a three-hour paint-out. As we took a few minutes to sip on our much-needed espressos, I noticed how Stockton is beginning to stick out like a colorful thumb. The architecture surrounding the newly revitalized downtown was structurally varied and full of color.
It certainly must have inspired John Budicin when he chose to paint the beautiful Hotel Stockton and a row of buildings fronted by spirally palm trees from the waterway; and Kenn Backhaus, Marika Wolfe and Phil Sandusky, as they painted the majestic fountain and the commanding architecture that surrounded them. Charles Waldman even painted standing in the center divide along Weber Avenue! On the other end of the spectrum, Jean LeGassick, John Cosby, Joe Paquet, Nancy Bush and Michael Godfrey chose to paint the heap of rusting corrugated steel buildings lining the waterway.
[Next post will be Part II of the story.]