North Coast Journal banner
Art Beat

May 13, 2004


The lectures


WENT TO A LECTURE AT THE Morris Graves Museum this past Friday night and it occurred to me, not for the first time, that the North Coast is a remarkable place to live if you're an artist. Not only do we get endless visual inspiration from the landscape and from the work of our fellow artists, but we also receive a tremendous amount of support from collectors, patrons and particularly from our local arts organizations.Photo of a print by Jack Welpott

The lecture I attended on Friday, given by fine art photographer Jack Welpott, is a good example of this support. Sponsored by the Humboldt Arts Council (HAC, the governing body behind the museum), lectures like this one are presented throughout the year, generally in coordination with an exhibit and scheduled around the speaker's availability. Since the talks are often sparsely attended, they tend to be cozy affairs where audience members are encouraged to ask questions and participate in the dialogue. The lectures are free and the educational value is priceless -- it's amazing what you can learn by attending.

["Near Sacramento," silver gelatin print by Jack welpott, ca. 1970.]

At the Welpott lecture, for example, this well-known, post-WWII generation photographer told candid stories about his early creative influences, his marriages and infidelities, and his friendships with such iconic photographers as Ansel Adams, Ruth Bernhart, Mary Ellen Mark and Edward Weston. We heard about Imogen Cunningham giving a marijuana plant to a naive friend as a joke, about Brett Weston trying to keep up with his old man in the marital infidelity department, and about Linda Connor agreeing to pose nude for Welpott as a 50th birthday present. At 81, the photographer was forthright and charming, making for an entertaining evening.

Welpott also treated us to a retrospective slide exhibit of his work, which included first-rate images chronicling the evolution of his long career, from his early black-and-white "documentary portraits" to his current digital work, featuring color extravaganzas reminiscent of old Flemish paintings. Welpott has been taking picturePhoto of sculptor Justin Schmidts since "before photography was considered an art," and hearing his commentary on his images was fascinating.

Welpott, who judged this year's Northwest Eye Competition (opening at the Graves on May 15), also talked about the arbitrary nature of the jurying process. "Anyone who juries a show brings their own prejudices," he said. "If you're rejected, it doesn't mean a damn thing." Welpott talked about a photographer he recently met who complained that he juried him out of a show 35 years ago. "Still holding a grudge after all these years. You shouldn't take it so seriously -- sometimes it may well depend on what I had for breakfast that morning," he joked.

At the Graves lectures, I've heard other jurors discuss their choices, and I've listened to other artists talk about their work. At a recent lecture, local painter Jesse Wiedel walked the audience around the gallery and talked about the inspiration and stories behind each piece in his show. At another talk, Mel Schuler (a local treasure who just celebrated his 80th birthday) discussed not only his own work, but his passion for collecting art from around the world. Shelley Hagen, curator of the A. G. Edwards Corporate Art Collection, gave the audience an insider's perspective on corporate art collecting. These talks provide us with a golden opportunity to learn straight from the horse's mouth about the art included in an exhibit.

[Sculptor Justin Schmidt. Photo by Bob Doran.]

As I mentioned, the Graves lectures are often poorly attended, and that seems like a shame. People tell me they don't come to the talks because they don't know about them, so I'd advise the HAC to do a better job of getting the word out, but that seems churlish considering the fact that the council is woefully understaffed and underfunded. Since the lectures are only one of the many services the HAC provides to the local community, it's up to us to stay informed. The events are generally listed in the HAC newsletters and details can be found on the organization's Web site ( if you look hard enough. They are also occasionally listed in the Journal's calendar. Considering the insight and inspiration the talks provide, it's well worth making the effort to attend.


Kudos to The Ink People, who are celebrating their 25th anniversary this month. If you missed the Arts Alive opening, drop in before the end of May to see the Members' Exhibit and congratulate them on their achievement.

Samantha Bartlett is also celebrating an anniversary in May, Gallery Dog's sixth year in business. Try to pop in sometime this month to congratulate Sam and see Kelly Leal's work -- it's a really good show.

I was very saddened to hear that local sculptor Justin Schmidt died last week. For those who didn't know him, Justin was a wonderful soul who volunteered for the RAA and created ceramic sculptures infused with his gentle sense of humor. I'll really miss him.

Linda Mitchell can be reached via




North Coast Journal banner

© Copyright 2003, North Coast Journal, Inc.