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This new work explores the water and weather of the Samish and Skagit Valley flats where farmland meets the saltwater edges of Puget Sound. Historic dikes hold back the sea, and cultivated fields sometimes seem like floating islands surrounded by the ditches, sloughs and drainage patterns that stitch the landscape together. These layers of aging dikes must have inspired hope and agricultural triumph at one time. Now, as coastal waters rise, they seem vulnerable.
The natural history of a landscape is vividly evident in a place like this. Small backwaters are the remaining arteries of vast, ancient swamps that spread across the lowlands. Grassy estuaries are edged by highways and drainage ditches, but one can imagine when there were marshes and rich prairies of native grasslands that stretched for miles along the shoreline. Enormous, ancient stumps sometimes make their way to the surface of muddy fields and local sloughs, showing up after a thousand years of damp sleep.
It is a luminous, magical landscape that seems able to retain a profound memory of what it once was.
As an artist, I go back and forth through the past, present and the future of these landscapes as I walk, drive and work in the studio. The large paintings you will see in this show seem to refer back to an ancient past or into an unknown future. The smaller landscape paintings serve as a "field journal" to the light, weather and seasonality of the Samish River flats near my studio. The monotype series is an emotional response to a landscape that is less specific and more influenced by memories of water, weather and atmosphere both in my adult life here in the Skagit Valley as well as my childhood in Northwestern Montana. I have vivid memories of the 1990 flood that inundated Fir Island here in our county and the flood stage of the Samish River the following year. These images rose to the surface of my work during the past year of studio work and presented themselves without intention; it has been a revealing experience and I am grateful for it.
ABOUT THE ARTIST: Kris Ekstrand is a painter and a printmaker who works out of her studio in Edison, Washington. Her work has been shown in one-person shows at Smith & Vallee Gallery (Edison), MUSEO (Langley, WA), Jansen Art Center (Lynden, WA), Moses Lake Museum (Moses Lake, WA), Skagit Valley College (Mount Vernon, WA) and juried shows at Schack Art Center (Everett, WA), Cascadia College (Bothell, WA), Museum of Northwest Art (La Conner, WA), Anacortes Arts Festival, Arts Alive (La Conner, WA) and other venues.