Wieghorst Museum opens the year showcasing plein air artists

0
351
WEBWieghorst.jpg

The Olaf Wieghorst Museum and Western Heritage Center in El Cajon kicked off this year’s shows with a special nod toward the namesake artist the gallery features. The first formal exhibit of the Wieghorst Museum’s schedule this year is titled “Salmagundians and Their Friends — Southern California,” a showing of artworks by plein air artists. The term plein air refers to those painters who complete their works in open air so as to capture the actual effects of light and atmosphere on their subjects.

The Olaf Wieghorst Museum and Western Heritage Center in El Cajon kicked off this year’s shows with a special nod toward the namesake artist the gallery features. The first formal exhibit of the Wieghorst Museum’s schedule this year is titled “Salmagundians and Their Friends — Southern California,” a showing of artworks by plein air artists. The term plein air refers to those painters who complete their works in open air so as to capture the actual effects of light and atmosphere on their subjects.

And Salmagundian? Two of the East County artists featured, Gloria Chadwick and Grace Schlesier, are members of the prestigious Salmagundi Club. The organization, founded in 1871, is based in New York City. Membership is by invitation only, with review of a proposed new artist-member’s work.

The museum and center celebrate the life and art of Wieghorst, a prominent local artist known during his lifetime and since as the “Dean of Western Painters.” As Earlene Hollmichel, executive director of the museum foundation, described the significance, “Olaf started most of his sketches in the open air, and sometimes did painting and sketching outdoors.”

This show will run from Monday, Jan. 9, through Feb. 14, with about 90 paintings created by 18 artists. The gallery’s art exhibits rotate every two months. The opening reception for this exhibit was held at the museum on the evening of Saturday, Jan. 7.

Other participating artists with featured works in the show include Pat Ford, George Kreutz, Fred Gregory, Chuck McPherson, May Ford, Pat Welsh, Nita Harper, Lee Katz, Betty Holmes, Val Carson, Joy Floro, Steve Dern, Dawn Secord, Coko Brown, Leslie Jakes, and Tim Russell. The show is well worth the time to wander through the museum. The artists are accomplished and skilled, with a variety of subjects depicted in their artworks.

Lee Katz, for instance, has been painting for 15 years. She noted why she favors outdoor painting, saying, “I love art and the environment, appreciating the beauty that surrounds us. I want to help preserve it and share the moment with the viewer as something meaningful. I hope to help the viewer dream a little bit. Art brings joy beyond daily life.”

Katz paints each day and outdoors twice weekly. She usually shows her paintings through the Art Association in La Jolla. Her paintings in the Wieghorst show include abstracts painted out of doors. “Painting is most difficult in the environment,” she continued. “You get more creative. You ask yourself, what do you want to capture?”

Artist Chuck McPherson got into the spirit of the show, dressed in cowboy garb but packing a paintbrush not a pistol in his holster. A self-described “intuitive watercolorist,” McPherson’s artworks in the exhibit include local scenes of the Cabrillo Lighthouse, Trestles and the Bali Hai. He explained other difficulties with outdoor painting. “I fell and cut my leg while working on this one,” he said, pointing to the Bali Hai watercolor. He went on, laughing, “I can prove I painted this one because there is a small drop of my blood in the painting.” McPherson use to work in oils as a realist painter. He stages public demonstration painting sessions. “In two hours, it’s tough to finish a painting,” he observed. He has participated in the Mt. Helix art show, painting publicly for attendees to watch. He said that one of his paintings broke the record, auctioned for sale at $2356, which went to the Mt. Helix Foundation.

Nita Harper, another artist whose works are in the display, discussed other challenging aspects of outdoor painting. “I was used to painting high-contrast scenes, usually in the desert around Santa Fe, New Mexico. I think one of my most successful paintings shown here was a real challenge, painting in the fog.” Harper used to be a portrait artist, and she was a college art major.

But San Diego County is good country for plein air artists, according to painter Mary Ford. She’s lived in Iowa and Denver, moving to Santee in 2000. “I was taken by the light here,” she recounted. “And you can paint all year-round.”

Hollmichel said of this collection of artists, “This group paints together as much as they can. They are a very good group, and they once painted in the cactus garden.” (The garden is just outside the gallery.) “This has been a successful opening reception. We’ve had a nice crowd, and the artists have already sold two pieces.”

The museum has a lot to celebrate as 2017 commences. Hollmichel listed other upcoming events at the Wieghorst center, including improving the garden, holding a plant sale, extending the high school student art show into March, and developing a new companion art education program for middle school students. 

In addition to its already-full schedule of different art shows, the museum announced this past week that the center’s back room has now unveiled a new set of artworks from the Western art master whose legacy inspires their efforts, transferred in trust from Roy and Barbara Wieghorst  for permanent rotating display. Many have been held within the Wieghorst family collection and have never been shown previously.

For more information, the Olaf Wieghorst Museum can be visited at 131 Rea Avenue in El Cajon, contacted by phone at (619) 590-3431, or researched online at www.wieghorstmuseum.org.