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Wed, Aug. 21

'On Being Present' -- All new work by watercolor artist Judy Jaaskelainen

"My best artwork is not usually inspired by going off and seeking 'something to paint'", explains watercolorist Judy Jaaskelainen, "They are images that I happen upon and have the urge to stop time or somehow cause those moments to pass more slowly so that I can fully appreciate the experience."

This is what happened to Ms. Jaaskelainen several Octobers ago while exploring the ruins at Canyon de Chelly in far Northeastern Arizona: "I was walking up to get a closer look at the base of the magnificent Spider Woman Rock.  As I approached it a small whirlwind traveled across my path toward the stately pinnacle and it lifted and swirled the autumn yellow cottonwood leaves in a spiral that danced around the base of the rock. I stood mesmerized. I have not yet painted that picture but it is high on my list."

Canyon de Chelly has provided inspiration for the artist before. "In February in 1995, I was in the canyon with a group of photographers.  It was snowing softly and everyone had their light meters out searching for an image to photograph in the low-light conditions.  I did that too, for a few minutes but then with my camera to my eye I happened to focus on all of the other photographers in their bright colored parkas, standing in various poses hovered over their equipment to keep the snow from landing on it.  It was unexpected and was great fun to use that composition in one of my watercolor paintings later that I titled, 'The Eye of the Beholder'."

Ms. Jaaskelainen's open-hearted way of seeing is the key to her art.

"At one of our local Farmer's Markets one evening a young woman passed by dancing to the music of Dave Rentz and John Ziegler," recalls Jaaskelainen, "She had on a colorful cap and bell-bottom jeans.  As usual, I had my camera with me and took a photo of her.  Years later I was attending one of Patty Mikles' Advanced Watercolor classes at Yavapai College and we were toying with 'distorting the perspective of common subjects'.  Looking through my resource photos I came upon that image and another of a clarinet player from Flagstaff who had performed at one of the Opening Receptions at our gallery.  He was hunkered down near the stairwell with his clarinet in his hand. My paintings 'Old Town Dancer,' and 'Sox to Match,' both, were so much fun to create and actually won awards in juried shows later that year."

The artist finds inspiration in the day-to-day scenery of her historic Clarkdale neighborhood. "My neighbor, Kahlil has a collection of the retro-metal lawn chairs.  One day while walking my dog, Gus, I glanced over at Kahlil's backyard and saw he had all of his old chairs lined up along one wall of his house.  It was winter but the sun was bright and it created fascinating tangled shadows on the ground and wall from the tubular frames of the chairs. Of course I had my camera with me, took a few photos. My watercolor, 'Warm Winter Sun,' another award winner, was the result."

The new paintings Ms. Jaaskelainen is presenting as the featured artist at Jerome Artists Cooperative Gallery Saturday Aug. 3 through Oct. 3, are more examples of her experience of life happening on a daily basis.

The artist enjoys scenes that cause her to want to stop," take a deep breath,  and savor a moment here and there." She extends her thanks to Cornville wood artist Phil Wright  for creating some of the beautiful frames used in the exhibit .

A new painting, "Moon-gazer," is from photos taken of a young woman who was wearing a lovely beaded head cover, bent over looking at some piece of jewelry that caught her eye at the Jerome Artists Cooperative Gallery.

"I asked if I could photograph her and she said, 'Sure!'  Sorting through my resources over the past few months I knew when I looked at that photograph again that I would have fun composing a painting using that image. It was! Painting each bead was like a meditation ... very calming .... And the moon ... well, I love the moon."

In addition to her new work at the Cooperative Gallery, Judy Jaaskelainen is also an participating member of the Verde Artist Challenge.

"I was invited to join 24 other artists in April, to do a three day kayak trip down the Verde River, arranged by the Verde Valley Land Preservation and funded by a grant.  One of the goals was for the artists to develop an emotional connection to our beautiful river and be inspired to create art that exemplifies our experience. The hope is that the persons who will see the exhibit of the "river art" will also develop a connection and sensitivity to the beauty and importance of all rivers, the Verde River in particular." 

"A River Runs Through Us," a traveling exhibit featuring the art inspired by the river and the kayak trip, will be seen throughout Arizona.  The art will be available for purchase through an online auction with the proceeds going toward further river preservation efforts. 

The paintings, sculptures, and photographs are scheduled to be presented to the public at the group's opening reception Saturday, July 27, 6-8 p.m., at the Manheim Gallery in Old Town Cottonwood. The show will be on display there through the end of August.

"On Being Present..." is dedicated to Ms. Jaaskelainen's mother.

"She not only taught me to walk and talk, but also to 'see'," explains the artist, "She would be 100 years old this year, in November. I miss her every day."

 Opening Reception Saturday Aug. 3, 5-8 p.m., at Jerome Artist's Cooperative Gallery, 502 Main Street, Jerome, (928-639-4276)  www.jeromecoop.com

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