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January 13, 2010     Feather River Bulletin
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January 13, 2010
 

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mlmnUlili  Bulletin, Progressive, Record, Reporter Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2009 1B RE G[ ONAL Three paintings by artist Phil Gallagher show how he juxtaposes what he calls the "cold" elements found in natural stone with those of humanitymin particular the human touch found in pre- historic petroglyphs. Petroglyphs are carved into stone and, though they depict many aspects in the life of early peoples, Gallagher is especially drawn to Hawaiian petroglyphs with their emphasis on family. He spends part of each year painting in Hawaii, but he also works at his studio in Meadow Valley. These three paintings show how place influences his paintings. The one on the left was painted here and the colors are notably muted. The other two were done in Hawaii, where the brilliant colors stand out. "All the plants and vegetation are way more vivid in the tropics," said Gallagher. "rhere are thousands and thousands of different shades of green." Photo by Linda Satchwell Artist blends pre-hist{,r),, n00ture and mystery Linda Satchwell living while continuing to instead of being chalky, it Staff Writer Isatchwell@plumasnews.com Nationally renowned artist Phil Oallagher will support the local art scene by showing his work Jan. 21-31 at Main Street Artists Gallery, 436 Main St. in downtown Quincy. Gallagher showed his art- work at Morning Thunder in 1979-80, but he's been a few places, artistically and geographigally, since then. Gallagher's story starts even earlier however, with a childhood passion for draw- ing and painting that became a life's vocation. He moved to Plumas County to attend Feather River College where art teacher Marv Schmidt influ- enced him. "I think I took every one of his classes twice," he said. He also spent a year at California State University-Chico, though he never got a degree. "I just buried myself in art depart- ments," he said. During summers in college, Gallagher worked in home construction as a laborer. After college, he continued building homes to make a paint. In 1984, he went to Kauai, "the garden island at the end of the chain," where his wife's father had a condo. At the time he was painting landscapes. During that stay in Kauai, he had "an epiphany" that would allow him to break into the art market and allow him to work at his art full time. Gallagher said he realed no other artist was doing his kind of landscape painting, and it would fit into the Hawaiian art market very well. "I saw a market I could compete in. I knew I could." Gallagher's Hawaiian land- scapes were painted in brightly layered oil pastels and, while he said there were several artists who were "mimicking Van Gogh," it wasn't original work. His landscapes had "tons of contrast and great vivid color." That is what he saw in Hawaii--a combination of the light, a brilliant, verdant landscape, and his own personal vision of the place. Pastels, he explained, are a "soft stick of luminescent color ... chalk really, but has an oil base to it, so it's real tactile. You can feel it and you can push it and rub it and it'll hang on. You can let it build up ... until it's really thick ... it'll hang on there, depending on the tooth of the paper, the ground that you're painting on." It was Gallagher's ability to see a market for his work that made the difference that would allow him to focus on his art. "If yOU wi, i tO lit/a ........ living in art, you can't sell painting s for $200," he said. He contacted Dawn Steinhardt at the Kahana Ki'i Gallery. She loved Gallagher's work and gave him a show. That show was successful, and from that came another. Afterwards, she introduced him to another art dealer, who introduced him to another. "This is how you build your connections in the art world--one at a time, through networking." From there, Gallagher went to galleries in Maui, then Honolulu, and from there "to the Big Island." After that, he showed in galleries in San Francisco, Seattle and Santa Monica, all \\; Artist Phil Gallagher demonstrates how he applies paint to paper, running his fingers over a brush that he first has rubbed in a tray of watercolor paint. He has lightly covered the paper with an organic "screen" composed of ground sawdust, twigs and rock and then drawn a petro- glyph-like figure in it with his finger. The paint from the brush sends a very fine spray of color onto the paper. Then Gallagher lifts up the paper and the organic screen falls away, revealing an image that looks as though it's painted on rock. Photo by Rockel Eriksen the while building connec- tions. That, however, is only the beginning of the story. Gallagher's art changed sig- nificantly during this time, beginning with an idea. "What I found--and I found this here in Plumas County-- what I wanted to describe was the surface of rock .2 a really cold chunk of rock, because I think I can see so much in rock ... I can see the history, thenam! tl hAstory ol.p00s For Gallagher, this organic surface is beautiful, but "cold." That is, it represents "nature... it doesn't have the emotion of humans, this cold entity. It doesn't breathe and talk. It's there forever, hope- fully. It's elemental." Gallagher said he loved working with organic ma- terials and creating, with paint, a surface that had the texture and surface of rock. But, said Gallagher, it was all earth; "it was missing man's touch." Gallagher is very interested in the juxtaposition of elements-- the contrast of things that aren't usually presented side by side. "They honor one another and they work off one another," he explained. In this case, interjecting a warm, human element into his paintings added a new idea and allowed the cofitrast of human warmth and the organic coldness of rock surfaces. "I wanted to know what kd oftouchI olput ... there at Wodld bring man: just a little bit of him, into the format of the painting," GaUagher said. He said he found his inspi- ration while looking through books on Hawaii at the Kona library. What he saw that resonated in his imagination were petroglyphs--manmade images carved into stone, usually created in prehistoric times, that tell a story. Gallagher was so taken by these ancient human images that he started tracking them down on the Big Island, photographing them and cataloguing them. Hawaii, he said, has more petroglyphs for its size than any other place in the world, hundreds of thousands of them. In the 1980s, many of these sites were overgrown and hadn't yet been catalogued officially. "In other words," said Gallagher, "they were off the radar." He said once this human element was added, his work took off. These paintings sold kl Clffornia, Washington, Hawaii, andevenfuaily fey would be shipped all over the world. What Gallagher finds unique about Hawaiian petroglyphs is their focus on the family. "Nowhere on earth are there petroglyphs that describe the family the way the original Hawaiians, the Polynesians, did. I really love that touch." Gallagher said he could see more in the past than in the present. People still ask the fundamental questions and See Artist, page 14B It's your turn. What do you see in this painting? Phil Gallagher uses Daniel Smith watercolor paint from Seattle, because he "makes incredible paint." He also uses a Daniel Smith gold iridescent, which seems here to offer a contrast reminiscent of light through a stained glass window. Newsprint can't do it justice, but Gallagher's rare show at Main Street Artists Gallery in Quincy can. Photo submitted