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Oregon Coast Trail – Artist Statement

My landscapes focus on recreating and exploring a time and place found during hikes. The Oregon Coast Trail series spotlights trail that follows the entire Oregon coastline as hiked and photographed by Pete Miller in the summer of 2016.
I left the safety and knowledge of my own artistic experiences and journeyed out to portray an experience I have yet to have I’ve painted someone else’s perspective a time or two with paintings from photographs, yet this is the first time I vicariously hiked an entire trail via a series and documented it through my art.
As Miller hiked he sent me photos and I was able to follow along the trail, about a day behind him. There was an interesting back and forth as shared the images had painted with him, on the day painted them. Once he returned was able to see all the photographs he took during his hike and then pick and choose more carefully what wanted to paint.
I trust viewers will gain a general sense and appreciation of the trail. For those who have already hiked it or seen parts of the Oregon coastline, I believe these paintings will act as a trigger for their own memories. We often secure our memories to a place and to see it again is to relive that part of our lives. People tell me that they have hiked the trail (in entirety or bits and pieces), sat on a specific rock, walked a beach hand in hand and even identified the spot they got engaged…the art is a way to connect these pieces of lifetimes together. There is a sense of the place that often goes far beyond the landmark. For me the beauty of Heceta Head isn’t the lighthouse it is the color of the sky on the water as it flows into the ocean.
Previous series have come from my direct experiences. This is the first time have used my work as a method of travel for myself…and others. I feel that know the Oregon Coast Trail intimately, but in reality had not set foot on it prior to painting it Before this series, thoughts of the Oregon Coast brought only dim memories of a childhood trip to the sand dunes.
In this series I painted locations accurately, but prioritized the essence of a place by eliminating unnecessary details. This painterly approach generates landscapes with fidelity to the colors and forms that comprise the coastal terrain. My artistic influences include Neil Welliver, the Group of Seven, Richard Bosman, Katsushika Hokusai, Alex Katz, and Jennifer Bartlett. I am interested in what landscape painting can become as we use it to explore, capture, and preserve a place.
There is a deep “truth” in the “lies” of a painting; artistic interpretations trump strict documentation for me and I purposefully journey to that place with my paintings. Photography presents an assumption of “truth” instead of embracing the beauty of a place recreated with a visual “lie” or two. Our culture defaults to a false belief that a photograph shows the place the exact way it is without considering the interpretation of the photographer and the camera. The idea of simultaneously documenting landscapes through photography and painting is not new. Thomas Moran painted and sketched Yellowstone to present the beauty of area to Congress for preservation, forming the first National Park. Yet, William Henry Jackson’s photographs were also presented as proof that what Moran depicted really existed.