Artists and poet show nature through their eyes at Pippa’s

Posted 9/11/19

Color and light stream in through the windows of artist Jeannie McMacken’s studio, on the third floor of the Port Townsend Post Office.

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Artists and poet show nature through their eyes at Pippa’s

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Color and light stream in through the windows of artist Jeannie McMacken’s studio, on the third floor of the Port Townsend Post Office.

Below, seagulls cry, soaring above the ferry dock where cars load onto the boat. The water, on a sunny day, is sparkling.

But McMacken—who is a multimedia artist, known for working with fabric, paint, photography and as a writer and most recently as a Port Townsend reporter for the Peninsula Daily News—isn’t interested in painting a picture-perfect ocean scene. Instead, she wants to discover how humans see nature, and how this view changes through each person’s individual eyes.

“I’ve always been really fascinated by how people see,” McMacken said. “Artists see things differently than non-artists. We see things that, to others, might be insignificant.”

For McMacken, this means interpreting natural sceneries with splashes of color—stamping paint onto paper with a rubber mat. Called monoprinting, McMacken layers colors upon colors to create abstract views: a field of poppies where red dots swirl around green stems, a madrona tree with brown bark interrupted by green splashes of leaves, and a whirling circle of blues, greens and whites that make up the ocean.

“Color, for me, is life,” she said. “It’s so exciting to be surrounded by color.”

Having recently experienced a head injury that changed her style of art-making, McMacken said she feels intensely connected to her new pieces, which came to her in a flurry of paint and paper stamping.

“I started working with colors that I hadn’t worked with before and had never really considered working with,” she said. “All of these pieces would come to me instantly.”

To McMacken, it is immediately obvious what each piece shows, whether it’s a field of flowers or a view of the Earth. But for other viewers, it might not be so easy to interpret.

The difference of viewpoints is the purpose of a new exhibit McMacken has curated, where she will show some of her own work, along with the work of six other artists and a poet, at Pippa’s Real Tea in downtown Port Townsend through October.

The exhibit, titled “The Art of the See: Viewpoints of Nature,” allowed for the seven artists to express how they see nature through their own eyes.

McMacken has seven of her own pieces in the show, which are complemented with abstract monoprints and poetry by Holly J. Hughes, landscape photographs by Gina Cox,

knotted macramé necklaces by Mary Chapman, contemporary art quilts by Caryl Fallert-Gentry, recent collages by Andrea Lawson, mixed-media work by Joyce Wilkerson and new oil paintings by Nancy Lucas Williams.

As visitors walk through Pippa’s for a cup of tea, they will walk through different phases of natural imagery, such as water, earth and flowers.

“It almost laid itself out,” said McMacken. “It was a paragraph. All these stories came out of these pieces and it’s all integrated together in the show.”

With a background in writing, McMacken wanted to include the work of a poet and Holly Hughes was recommended to her by the Port Townsend Arts Commission. Her poems, some of which were written while viewing the art pieces that would be in the exhibit, hang on the walls to compliment the visual art.

While this isn’t McMacken’s first time curating a show, it is one that she feels particularly connected to as a lifelong nature-lover.

“When I was growing up, I’d come home from school and sit in a large tree in my yard,” she said. “It gave me a different perspective on everything, it freed me to view things differently.”

While McMacken’s inspiration comes from her history of growing up surrounded by trees in Connecticut where she would garden with her grandparents and the ocean-view from her studio now in Port Townsend, where she has lived for 10 years, each artist in the exhibit is different.

For photographer Gina Cox, her view of nature comes from a studied eye.

“When I go out to shoot an image, I’ve done a lot of research,” she said. “I know what I’m looking for and I’m trying to capture the moment in time that I’m looking for.”

Her work shows these unique moments, such as a perfect wave crashing against a rocky bluff, or the sun shining just so through a hole in a beach rock.

Meanwhile, other artists took the opportunity to express environmental concerns through their pieces, like Joyce Wilkerson, whose mixed-media piece shows her interpretation of noise on natural areas, a nod toward state litigation and private protests over Navy plans to increase Whidbey Island-based flights of “Growlers” as the Navy’s EA-18G electronic warfare plane is called.

“This is the only piece of political art I have made and exhibited,” Wilkerson said. “I’ve been following the issue for years and it really disturbed me.”

Titled, “Electronic Warfare Coming to a National Park Near You,” Wilkerson used photographs of Quinault Lake with hand-stitching thread to demonstrate the disruption caused by the noise of Growlers.

Allowing for all of these viewpoints to be shown is fascinating for McMacken, who has always been a mixed-media artist herself, expressing herself in fabric, paint and writing, among others.

Seeing her fellow artists express their own visions through media is part of what she enjoys doing.

“Between writing and visual art, that’s how I express my feelings, my secrets, my inner thoughts and my criticisms,” she said. “I’ve always had the need to express myself in this form.”

Lovers of art can meet McMacken and her fellow artists at a reception during Art Walk from 5:30 to 8 p.m. on Oct. 5. The exhibit shows at Pippa’s through September and October, closing on Oct. 27. Pippa’s Real Tea, 636 Water St., is open Wednesday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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