Third Street Gallery archive: 2008 Exhibitions: The Water's Edge: Paintings and Prints by Michael Guerriero, Jim McVicker, Kathy O'Leary & Walt Padgett

During the months of April and May, as part of its Art & Environment Exhibition Series, Humboldt State University’s First Street Gallery will present,  The Water’s Edge: Paintings and Prints by Michael Guerriero, Jim McVicker, Kathy O’Leary and Walt Padgett, opening on April 5th.

Guerriero, McVicker and O’Leary are all long-term residents of Humboldt County, California and are counted among the finest landscape artists portraying the natural beauty of California’s North Coast.  Walt Padgett makes his home with his family in Grants Pass, Oregon where he has worked as an artist and teacher for several decades.

The four artists in this exhibition each convey a sense of place where water meets land in Northern California’s and Southern Oregon’s watersheds, rivers, bays and coasts. The intention of the exhibition is to demonstrate how these landscape artists convey the complexity of these important ecosystems, while also creating high-quality art.
The art made by these four artists is not that of a tourist or casual observer. Elaborately colored and imbued with the humid light specific to Northern California and Southern Oregon, whether expansive or close up, these artists focus on the integrity of the region’s ecology – not as a political issue (although by inference, they warn of its fragility and argue for its maintenance), but as an experience — as their home. To better grasp the power that the North Coast landscape wields over the spirit and imagination of its resident artists, read on to the eloquent statement that artist Kathy O’Leary has prepared for this show.


My inspiration for The Water’s Edge was Humboldt Bay.  A San Francisco Bay Area transplant, I moved here in 1969.  Through the years I have lived in Manila, Arcata, and now Eureka, and have viewed our bay from all angles, in all lights.  After 39 years, I am still awed by its beauty.

Once I began working as an artist, painting here and in many other states, I became even more impressed with our bay.  There are very few waterways remaining in the U.S. with so much natural beauty surrounding them.

There are certain places around the bay, which really stand out for me: The Elk River Estuary, and Indian Island.  Throughout a year, the light, shrubs and trees, and the color of the grasses and water change considerably.  The changing atmosphere, clouds and moisture around these areas, particularly in late or early light, add to the visual feast.  Indian Island in particular feels like a sacred place to me.  Its sacred feel also comes from its importance to local Wiyot (Native American) culture, as a site for world renewal ceremonies where blessings of peace and harmony, for all beings and the Earth occur.  To evoke a sense of the sacred, I used the iconic shape (as orthodox churches use for displaying likenesses of the saints) to express my sense of the holy about this place.

Humboldt Bay enriches our lives every day.  Where else in this country does so much beauty, richness of culture and nature exist in one place?  I have thoroughly enjoyed painting these pieces and hope these images remind you of what we have here and encourage all of us to preserve it.

Kathy O’Leary
Spring, 2008

The Water’s Edge,  will be on exhibition from April 5 through May 18.  A reception for the artists will be held on Saturday April 5th during Eureka’ monthly  Arts Alive program.  Humboldt State University First Street Gallery is open Tuesday through Sunday from 12noon to 5 p.m. and is located at 422 First Street, Eureka, California.  Admission is free.  Those planning group tours are encouraged to call ahead.  For more information call 707-826-3424.