Cross-posted from Field Notes, the blog of the St. Croix Watershed Research Station:
Joshua Cunningham, a painter staying on the banks of the St. Croix River this month, will be painting the scenic farmer’s market and other activities of Marine on St. Croix this Saturday. He will be happy to talk with anybody who stops by to watch him depict the bustling, peaceful village.
Cunningham is an artist-in-residence at Pine Needles, the historic cabin of the Dunn family. The residency has been run by the St. Croix Watershed Research Station since 2002, when Scandia writer Laurie Allmann piloted the program. The painter is painting at least one canvas each day while working from the rustic cottage perched above the river – seeking the right light and crafting impressionistic scenes of water, trees, and sun.
“The St. Croix has been a place of inspiration from my earliest outings as an artist,” he says, and is using his residency to not only paint, but also to deepen his understanding of the river. He spent last Friday on lakes in Polk County with scientists from the research station, taking sediment cores that will provide information about their historic and current conditions.
He hopes to get to know some of the river valley’s people in Marine on St. Croix this weekend. He intends to be on the north end of downtown between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., probably near the gazebo. Here he will paint “plein air” the General Store, town hall, and other historic buildings, as well as the people making a Saturday trip into town like they have for some 150 years.
After his stay on the St. Croix, Cunningham will take his many half-day paintings back to the studio and craft a few larger works. But in his artist’s statement, he says the work he does in the outdoors is a special sort of art.
“The field studies are finished work, in their own right. And they hold in them, the intense experience of their creation. In the studio, these paintings return me to the scene, bringing back not only what I saw, but what I heard, what I smelled, what I felt in the air. It is all in the paint along with dust from the fields and grit from the road.”
And the conversation of the citizens is in it, too.