Monday, January 26, 2009

Plein Air Painters of America

"Plein-air painting has to do with putting your soul on show," says founder Denise Burns. Ask her why she organized the Plein-Air Painters of America, and she characteristically adds a tidbit of humor: "We were eating bugs, too," she says, pointing out that in the mid-1980s New Mexico's on-location painters were getting attention in the press, but those in California were only beginning to see their names in print.

It was an era when early California impressionism was just beginning to be documented by scholars. In 1982 Ruth Westphal published the resource book Plein-Air Painters of California The Southland, followed four years later by The Northland. Major collections were being built, and prices for historic paintings were rising. Burns, who was president of the Catalina Art Association at the time, felt the moment had arrived to educate collectors about contemporary artists pursuing the art of painting from life.

With the encouragement of her friend and Catalina neighbor, art collector Roy Rose (grand nephew of California impressionist Guy Rose) Burns handpicked 20 artists to participate in the First Annual Plein-Air Painters Festival, October 30-November 2, 1986. The concept was to come to Catalina Island, as did so many early California Impressionists, paint outdoors for a week, then sell the paintings in a Saturday evening exhibition.

That format continued with minor variations through 2003, when the last PAPA-sanctioned exhibition and sale took place on Catalina Island. Today, PAPA exhibitions and sales are held from coast to coast. Recent exhibitions have been held in such prestigious venues as The Haggin Museum, Stockton, California, and the Academy Art Museum, Easton, Maryland.


Jeff L said...

Great post! The Catalina Island Museum will be hosting an exhibit on plein-air paintings of Catalina starting January 30. It looks like it will be pretty good.

Judsons Art Outfitters said...

Yes it does look like that exhibit will be very enjoyable! I encourage anyone in the area to go see it. I would, if only California was closer to Colorado...