The artist Mary Pettis cherishes her relationship with the verdant valley of the St. Croix River, which graces the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin, and where she and her husband, Randy, moved in 1979.
“As a young artist,” she recalls, “I struggled to explain the magnetic pull of the river and its watershed. Now, after four decades, I recognize that I had fallen in love with the abstract shapes of the valley: the silhouette of the white pines against a vast sky, the contrast of natural stands of birch groves against the deep forest, the musical structural rhythms formed by the river pressing against its banks. I love its story, the historical and geological narrative stored in the layers of rocky sentinels lining the river. I care now more than ever that this thriving, wild, and scenic watershed be preserved and protected.”
Pettis is exhibiting more than 50 oil paintings depicting the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway at the headquarters of the Wild Rivers Conservancy in Osceola, Wisconsin.
Ranging from field studios to larger paintings completed in the studio, many are annotated with the latitude and longitude coordinates where they were initiated. Pettis will donate a quarter of each sale’s proceeds to the conservancy.
A self-described expressive realist, Pettis has drawn inspiration from various traditions, including her classical training and the legacy of Russian painting. Early on, she studied with the Hungarian artist Belo Petheo, Richard Lack in Minneapolis, and Daniel Graves, who later founded the Florence Academy of Art.
In the 1990s, Jim Wilcox introduced Pettis to the “wet-in-wet” plein air approach, which led her to paint outdoors. Today she divides her time equally between nature and the studio.
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