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Plein Air exhibit impresses viewers with its simple beauty

Students, faculty and members of the community browsed the John Brown University art gallery this evening for the opening of an exhibit entitled “The Beauty of Observation: An American Plein Air Showcase.”

Charles Peer, gallery director for the University’s department of visual arts, said he thinks the show is one many people will enjoy. “You don’t have to have a strong background in art to figure it out …. It’s one that you can just visually enjoy, because it’s beautiful.”

The gallery features what Peer calls “some of America’s biggest names in the field of plein air painting.” The artists are Millis Gosch, Darrell Hill, Hai-Ou Hou, John P. Lasater IV, Karol Mack, Richard Oversmith, and Richard Sneary.

Peer explained this style of painting became popular about the same time as the invention of the paint tube and developed with Impressionism. Supplies no longer tied artists to their studio, so the artists had the freedom to paint on location.

Plein air painting happens in the moment, Peer said, with paintings rarely taking more than 2 hours to complete. The style features broken brush strokes and vivid colors.

“The artist is trying to capture the feeling and the mood of that particular time,” said Peer.

Sophomore DJ Isbell found the plein air style “intriguing” in “how simple it looks, yet so beautiful.” As a photography major, he complimented the framing of many of the works.

Peer said he put the gallery together with the help of his long-term friend, Lasater, whose work is featured in the gallery. Lasater helped gather outstanding plein air artists and helped Peer create a gallery including works representing as many popular plein air areas in the U.S. as possible.

Bob Kitchen came to the gallery opening from his farm out on the Illinois River. Lasater had come to Kitchen’s farm before to paint. Kitchen said he enjoys the outdoors, and also enjoys works that celebrate them.

Lasater attended the gallery opening and spoke to the crowd about his work and the plein air method.

“The beauty of plein air,” he said, “is that you have that emotional spark. You try to get it in there quickly and to overwork it.”

The exhibit will be on display in the University’s art gallery until Sept. 29. Its hours are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. or by special arrangement.