"Tranquility," a 9x10 oil painting by Mark Shasha of Swampscott, Massachusetts, has been selected as the winner of the Friends of the Columbia Gorge award at PNW Plein Air 2023, an annual plein air (outdoor painting) event hosted by Maryhill Museum (Goldendale, Washington) in the Columbia Gorge.
Since 2019, Friends has partnered with Maryhill on the contest to support the arts scene in the Gorge and, more broadly, to spotlight the intersectionality of art and conservation. Each year, Friends selects three paintings that best illustrate and celebrate the natural beauty and sense of wonder of the Gorge.
Shasha’s winning piece only came to be thanks to a moment of serendipity. “This painting was the result of a wrong turn,” he recounts. “I was on my way on Route 14 to Lyle from Goldendale after trying to meet up with some friends and found this exciting scene by the river instead. I pulled the car over at a turnout and immediately set up my kit. It is the kind of challenge which appeals to me as a landscape painter, a combination of near and far, light and shadow and the wild element of the water which was captured here at a very peaceful moment.”
The Columbia Gorge is a source of creative inspiration for artists of all disciplines, but its scenic vistas, majestic forests, and diverse wildlife are impermanent. Plein air artwork is a way to both honor the splendor of the Gorge and acknowledge its fragility. There’s no guarantee that these magnificent scenes will last for future generations, so these paintings remind us all of the beauty we are charged with protecting.
Friends’ second-place award went to Gretha Lindwood of Portland, Oregon, for her painting “Horsethief Butte,” and third place was awarded to Tiffanie Mang of San Diego, California, for her work entitled “Misty Blues.”
Timelapse: Experience the creation of a plein air work in a timelapse video with landscape painter Elo Wobig. Visit gorgefriends.org/timelapse