A showcase for Oregon art by Barbara Curtin

This city's biggest, boldest gallery - the tomato-red interior of the Salem Conference Center - holds a new art show that benefits this imposing space.

The Fourth Annual Mayor's Oregon Artists Series features work by 31 of the state's most respected artists. Entry was by invitation only - the most prestigious kind of show.

At Wednesday's opening gala, jurors will announce the Mayor's Grand Purchase Award winner. It will become part of the Salem Conference Center's permanent collection alongside paintings by James Mattingly, Marilyn Higginson and Harry Widman. Jurors John Olbrantz, Cynthia Addams and Sara Swanberg also will select several artists to receive

honorarium awards.

"This show is really vibrant, with lots of different types of expression," said Nancy Lindburg, a Salem painter and member of the show's advisory committee. She came by to inspect the paintings, many of them massive, before they were hung in early July.

"Many of us are happy to see many Portland folks," she said, noting the participants in the show. "It's invigorating to get so many folks to Salem. Salem tends to go to Portland. It's good for us and good for them."

Lindburg pointed out pieces by some of the best-known artists in the state. Paul Missal, a founding member of the Blackfish Gallery, had submitted a still life with a statue, a teacup and a bird. Lucinda Parker, another well-known Portland artist, had brought an abstract-expressionist piece with bold strokes in brown, white and black. Henk Pander, whose portraits of two governors hang in the Capitol, was represented here by a scene of trees against a background of pink.

The conference center, which draws 88,000 guests a year, is a prime place for such a high-quality exhibit, Lindburg said. "You want to show what we can do," she said. "It's a showcase."

Sure enough, on Thursday the conference center was humming with a five-day convention of the Church of God (Seventh Day). Reuben Zaragoza of Calimesa, Calif., one of about 500 guests, said he had indeed noticed the art hung around each side of the first-floor meeting space.

"This is my first time in Salem," he said. "It gives me the impression there are a lot of artists here - are they local? It represents Salem well as far as the arts."

George Johanson, who is retired after 25 years teaching at the Pacific Northwest College of Art, said he was glad to contribute a painting of the waterfront at night in the rain.

"I'm always pleased to get an invitation from a quality show like that," said Johanson, who is represented by Portland's Augen Gallery. "I was interested in the fact they produce a catalog, so I chose a good piece. I see that other people did, too."

Margaret Coe, a Eugene artist who normally shows in that city's Karin Clarke Gallery, brought a 5-by-5-foot scene that started as a plein air study of a village in France. The tumbled houses and vegetation took on additional layers of paint as she filtered the images through her

memory and imagination.

The piece represents six months of work, and by submitting it in Salem, Coe made it unavailable for her upcoming show in Portland. But she decided the Salem invitational was worth the investment of her time.

She recommends it to viewers as well.

"It is a chance to see a number of established artists' work in the same location," she said. "It is part of the story of Northwest art. ... It's a different show than you will see anywhere else."

bcurtin@statesmanjournal.com or (503) 399-6699

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