Artist gains Capitol audience

On the morning of a white-powder scare day, Gov. John Kitzhaber’s comment about the art took on ominous meaning.

“These are a bit of tranquility,” he said Wednesday to Hood River artist Eric Jacobsen, “in a sea of insanity” — a reference to recent political difficulties in Salem.

Another form of insanity ensued just after Kitzhaber met with Jacobsen in his office and complimented the artist on the oil landscapes on display.

Shortly after their meeting, the Capitol was evacuated after a mail clerk in the Capitol found a suspicious white powder in an item of mail. State Police and FBI shut the government building down for the rest of the day.

But not before Kitzhaber and Jacobsen talked of more peaceful things. The governor had taken time out from studying legislative vetoes to admire Jacobsen’s scenes of Mt. Hood and Pine Grove, shown since Aug. 31.

Kitzhaber told Jacobsen that his paintings “are like a series of windows looking out at places around Oregon.”

Kitzhaber said he has always tried to use the space to give unknown artists some exposure.

“One of the surprises of being governor is getting your very own art gallery,” Kitzhaber said. He appoints a committee to review submissions, which are then chosen for display in the foyer outside his office.

“It’s a real honor to have my works shown here,” Jacobsen said. “Hopefully people will see them and it will remind them of Oregon,” said Jacobsen, who regularly displays at Yoshida Gallery in Troutdale.

Jacobsen, 36, was chosen by the national publication “Arts and Antiques” as one of the 18 “up and coming young artists in America.” Two years ago he moved to Hood River from Massachusetts; he studied at Gordon College in Massachusetts and Lyme Academy of Fine Arts in Connecticut.

Two of Jacobsen’s 12 works shown at the Capitol were sold as a result of the exhibit, said gallery co-owner David Baumann.

“He was a natural choice,” for display in Kitzhaber’s office, because of his emphasis on Oregon scenes.

“Eric is one of our top selling artists and a real nice gentleman,” Baumann said.

Jacobsen paints almost exclusively in the field and teaches classes locally on that method, known as “plein air.” He continues to use Hood River County locales to fill his canvas, and is looking forward to painting images of colorful fall foliage on the flanks of Mt. Hood.

He describes his style as “impressionistic-realistic” inspired in part by 19th century American master John Sargent.

“I go for the mood of a scene, more than details,” Jacobsen said. “I definitely paint what’s in front of me.” Many of his scenes take in rural buildings, for which he has a particular affection. “Country Barn Parkdale” is a vivid rendition of a classic wooden building. Another painting shows a farm home and outbuilding in Pine Grove, in warm morning light.

“I think my paintings say a lot about the history of the houses and the barns,” Jacobsen said. “I’m interested in capturing a little bit of history. The houses and barns are interesting to look at but they’re even more interesting to paint.”

And much more peaceful than a Capitol building surrounded by yellow crime scene tape.

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