Paintings by Kristen O’Neill
The Oregon Coast series explores the trail that follows the entire Oregon coastline as hiked and photographed by Pete Miller in the summer of 2016. Originally, I wanted to experience the trail firsthand. Like many of the experiences we want to have, I was not going to be able to do this long-distance hike. I was not ready to give up on the idea. A plan was hatched that Miller would send me photos as he hiked.
Each day I woke up early and painted an entire painting in one sitting. Diving into all the possibilities from the photos that I received, I would select the one that sang to me. At the end of the painting session, I would photograph my painting, and send it back to Miller. It was as if I was just one day behind him on the trail every day, cheering him on has he pushed through 20+ mile days.
In this series, I painted locations accurately, prioritizing the essence of a place by eliminating unnecessary details. This painterly approach generates landscapes with fidelity to the colors and forms that comprise the coastal terrain. My artist influences include the Group of Seven, Jennifer Bartlett, Marsden Hartley, and Katsushika Hokusai.
The larger paintings are inspired by Jamie Kish, biologist and photographer of Girl in Water Photography, and painted with her blessing. Her up-close experiences of the coastline inspired me. I enjoyed the play of making large, dynamic paintings based on small, ephemeral Instagram posts.
I trust viewers will gain an appreciation of the trail. For those who have already hiked it, or seen parts of the Oregon coastline, I believe these paintings will act a trigger for their own memories. We often secure our memories to a place and to see it again is to relive that part of our lives. People recognize a place and share their wonderful tales with me. One woman recognized the very spot that she had gotten engaged at, thirty years prior. There is a sense of place that often goes far beyond. I paint that truth. For me Heceta Head isn’t the lighthouse – it is the color of the sky on the water as it flows into the Pacific.