Friday, February 18, 2011

Featured Artist

Carol Poppenga
      Carol S. Poppenga's artmaking is a life-long pursuit and interest. Her first formal art sale -- the work was a pen and ink portrait of a neighbor's English Bulldog -- was made when she was a fifth grade student.  After high school, Poppenga enlisted in the United States Air Force. Following active-duty, Poppenga joined the Montana Air National Guard.  She retired with the rank of Master Sergeant in 1995.
      Poppenga earned a B.A. in U.S. History and Art (summa cum laude) from the University of Great Falls in Montana. She continued her formal art education at the Alberta College of Art (ACA) in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. In 1994 Poppenga became the Home & Family Editor with the Lewistown News-Argus in Montana.  Other work experience includes Executive Director of the MonDak Museum in Sidney, Montana and Studio Arts Technician for the Art Department at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. Today, however, Poppenga is giving her full creative energy to the making of art on a professional level. Her artworks are in business and private collections in the U.S., Canada and Germany. In addition to her studio work, Poppenga also designs and paints large-scale murals in the public and business sector.
"Powerful Storm", (drawn from memory and some simple line drawing notes made on-site), oil on paper, 18"x24", 2009, Carol Poppenga, Donated to the Juried Yellowstone Art Museum's 43rd Annual Art Auction 
What projects to you hope to undertake in the future with your new printing press?
I’d like to create a series of monoprints and monotypes using the etching press to pull the prints. So I’ve been trying out a variety of papers and objects for embossing and am hoping to combine techniques. Printmaking is not entirely new to me. I took courses in lithography, etching, wood block and photo-stencil in Calgary. Over the years I’ve also explored silkscreen printing, creating a number of small edition prints using single screens with glue block-out and up to 37 colors per image. But I’ve always wanted to work more with the processes that really needed a press. So this year I gave in to my inner muse and bought the etching press.
"Petrolia Reservoir Memory", (based on memory), oil on paper, 5"x7", 2010, Carol Poppenga
You mention in your artist statement that you are inspired by travel beyond your home region.  Are there particular places you would like to visit to inspire future paintings?
      Oh yes! Dutch Harbor, Alaska is high on that list. So is Isle Royale in Lake Superior. And I’d jump at the opportunity to experience and paint the landscapes Canadian artist Tom Thompson and the Group Of Seven were inspired by in Canada’s north country. Of course, there are plenty of locations closer to home as well. I plan to hike and draw some areas of the Missouri River Breaks Monument, which is only about 70 miles north of my home. Last summer I hiked a small creek canyon about the same distance from home but in another direction; I hope to return to paint it this spring. 
      Sometimes exploring a place that contrast where I live has a surprise influence on my work. A good example of that was a two-week solo artist residency I did in the Bob Marshall Wilderness of Montana. I love trees, but hiking in the “Bob” (as we Montanans call it) with dense spruce and fir trees blocking the sky except for a tiny “sky portal” directly above me was a claustrophobic experience. Hiking 60 plus miles in a tree-covered mountain environment strengthened my desire to paint the wide-open prairie/sky vistas.    
     I got a step closer to some extended road trips last summer when I was commissioned to paint a band shell mural in Helena, Montana. While working on that mural, I tent-camped. It poured rain and lightning every night of the month I was there. So I spent some of the profit from that project to purchase a small fiberglass travel trailer. It’s lightweight so I can tow it with my old Jeep. I tested it out last autumn and it’s the perfect fit for a long painting trip. I used to do those road trips where you just sleep in the car but I think it’s time to move up the comfort ladder. I spend my coffee breaks at the studio preparing art supplies and small canvases to put in the trailer so I’m ready to hit the road as soon as winter loosens its grip (which, in Montana, might not be until May—but whenever it does, I’ll be ready to roll!)
Mural in Veterans Memorial Park Band Shell (outdoors), acrylic latex on stucco and wood panel, 50 feet across the shell opening and about 45 ft high, 2010, Carol Poppenga
You title your painting work "Latent Images--Landscapes Remembered."  Please share a bit about this title.
For the past decade or so I’ve collectively titled my paintings “Latent Images—Landscapes Remembered.”  Have you ever taken a photo of something only to look at the photo later and think the photo wasn’t quite what you remembered? I’ve often contemplated the why of it and decided that it’s because, with the passage of time, the only “real” anything exists in one’s memory. Memory becomes the “real” because it is what we carry with us after the physical real is gone. Memory contains latent images just as undeveloped film contains latent images, but unlike film, memory can (and often does) manipulate the real. You might say that what I do when I work is “develop” memory to make paintings just as a photographer develops film to make photos. But, although they may be recognizable as particular locations, my paintings are not photographic renditions. Rather, they are the manifestation of the “latent image” as it is retained in and recalled from memory. I’ve been working primarily with sky and landscapes latent images, but eventually I’ll explore other subjects in this manner as well.
"Anchored in a Sea of Grass", oil on paper, 18"x24", 2009, Carol Poppenga
Many thanks to Carol for sharing her beautiful "latent images."  

What do you think of these Montana inspired images?
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