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Contact: Henrietta DeGroot, 909-617-5558
The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area and Obed Wild and Scenic River have started an artist-in-residence program at both parks, offering professional writers, composers, and visual and performing artists the opportunity to pursue their artistic discipline while being surrounded by the parks' inspiring landscape. Artists had an impact on the formation, expansion and direction of our national parks. Painting the landscapes of the American West, visual artists like George Catlin and Albert Bierstadt focused attention on natural wonders then unfamiliar to the majority of Americans. These visual records of early artists helped to stimulate the establishment of many of our national parks.
Superintendent Niki Stephanie Nicholas is excited about the establishment of this new program. She explained that the goal of the artist-in-residence program is to "share with the public the scenic beauty and stories of Big South Fork and the Obed through the world of art. Artists can really help translate the national park's purpose, as a place of pleasure and preservation, into images which bring others enjoyment and a deeper understanding of the parks many Americans may never visit."
Penny Otwell has been selected as the first artist-in-residence and will be in the parks from February 20 through March 6. The public is invited to visit with her in the Education and Interpretation Building (next to the Bandy Creek Visitor Center) during her open studio hours on Wednesdays from 4 to 6 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays from 3 to 5 p.m. There will also be a Meet the Artist Reception at the Obed Wild and Scenic River Visitor Center (208 North Maiden Street, Wartburg, Tennessee) on Friday evening, March 1, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Otwell paints with acrylic, oil and watercolor. She is known for her palette knife painting in an ala prima style of thick paint. Her use of color is what collectors say they like best about her work. She is a self-taught painter whose mother was a professional artist in Canada at the same time as the well-known "Group of Seven. "Otwell lives near Yosemite National Park. She came to Yosemite in 1964 and has observed Yosemite intimately in all seasons. She has backpacked and hiked hundreds of miles and always stops to make drawings.
Otwell paints "en plein air" on a portable easel but also paints in her studio which has allowed her to explore evolving and changing technique with tubes of paint. Otwell said, "I like to work as large as possible and strive for a sense of rhythm with the shapes found in nature. "When asked where her inspiration comes from, she remarked, "No matter how I approach a painting, it is inspired by these years of walking through canyons and up to the top of cliffs. I often refer to my pencil sketches which brings a painting to life in my own unique style. "She is very excited about the opportunity to paint at the Big South Fork and Obed. "My goal is to capture the natural rhythm found in mountains, rivers, canyons and hemlock stands."