The six-part television series Plein Air, Painting the American Landscape, produced at KTOO-TV in Juneau, began airing nationally on PBS stations this fall. The series will air statewide on 360 North in February. All six episodes were edited at KTOO-TV’s new high definition television production facility. KTOO’s Theresa Tavel was the editor and post-production coordinator.
Created and produced by well-know Alaska filmmaker Greg Bombeck of Eagle River, the series is a celebration of our natural world, a visual retreat to our nation’s beautiful places and an exploration of the rich and colorful history of American landscape painting. From the founding of the Cape Cod School by Charles Hawthorne in 1899 and gathering of the Taos Society of Artists a few years later – to location demonstrations by today’s leading landscape artists – viewers will discover the roots of this uniquely American art form and why painting “en plein air” is once again at the forefront of American representational art.
With major funding from the Rasmuson Foundation, three of the six episodes were shot on location in Alaska, including Denali Park, Seward and Juneau. Celebrated Alaska cinematographer Bill Holden was the principal photographer for the series.
9:00 pm Wednesday, February 13
•Denali, en Plein Air: Three nationally acclaimed plein air artists, Matt Smith, of Scottsdale, Arizona, Kenn Backhaus of Robesonia, Pennsylvania, and Jean LeGassick, of Silver City, Nevada, paint Alaska’s Mt. McKinley, North America’s tallest mountain, and the expansive wilderness landscape of Denali National Park.
Viewers join Smith on location for a brief painting demonstration and a glimpse into the training, technique and thought processes necessary to paint a successful plein air painting. And the adventure and risks of painting in the wild become evident when a blond grizzly arrives uninvited, and sends the artists scurrying.
A visit to the Anchorage Museum presents the astonishing mountaineer and artist, George Brown, and the paintings he created while climbing Mt. McKinley as a member of the 1947 Bradford Washburn Mt. McKinley Expedition.
•Cape Cod with Charles Sovek, en Plein Air: Nationally known Connecticut artist, author and educator, Charles Sovek, takes viewers to his summer home and studio on Cape Cod. Highly engaging, Charles shares his life as an artist and the perspective 50 years of experience brings to painting en plein air.
9:00 pm - Wednesday, February 20
•The Tongass Rain Forest, en Plein Air: Plein air artists, Smith, Backhaus and LeGassick, travel to remote Southeast Alaska to paint the Tongass Rain Forest, renowned for its towering old growth cedar, hanging moss and incessant rainfall. This episode features a demonstration by Jean LeGassick, who proves that it takes tenacity, gear, and considerable know-how to paint in a rain forest.
Jean shares her personal experience on her road to becoming a professional artist. And her colleagues prove there are struggles and obstacles in every endeavor.
Professor Kesler Woodward examines Laurence’s life and art in the context of modern times.The majesty of the Kenai landscape, the fun and camaraderie amongst the artists, and their pursuit of the rich heritage of landscape painting on location in Alaska creates a memorable viewing experience.
•Taos en Plein Air, and the Taos Society of Artists: Contemporary plein air artist, Ron Rencher, is featured in this episode and introduces viewers to the rich and colorful history of Taos, New Mexico. Following a brief biographical sketch, discover how the Pueblo (Tewa) Indians, the Sante Fe Railroad and a group of academically trained, highly skilled artists from the East Coast came together to give birth to the Taos Society of Artists and artists colony that remain active today.
9:00 pm - Wednesday, February 27
•Seward, Alaska, en Plein Air: Kenn Backhaus leads the trio of visiting artists to Seward, Alaska and its beautiful Resurrection Bay, gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park. With the towering Chugach Mountains as a backdrop the artists fi nd inspiration in a derelict boatyard. Kenn demonstrates his approach to painting en plein air, and discusses the influences that shaped him as an artist.
The activities of today’s artists are examined in context with earlier nationally known Alaskan plein air artists and adventurers, Eustace Ziegler and Ted Lambert. Professor Kesler Woordward provides commentary and examples.
Viewers are introduced to iconoclastic painter of Mt. McKinley, Sidney Laurence, whose paintings, created in the early 1900s, have come to epitomize the Alaska landscape.
•Trinidad, Colorado, en Plein Air, and the California Impressionists: Watercolorist and oil painter, Frank LaLumia, shows his command of both mediums with an on-location watercolor demonstration as he paints the historic buildings of Trinidad. Colorado; then, painting in oils at Three Ponds Farm in Central Michigan. And, Frank shares insights into his life as a professional landscape artist.