When the exhibit committee at the Pendleton Center for the Arts invited Hiroko Cannon to create work for her third solo exhibit in the East Oregonian Gallery, no one could have imagined that it would open in the context of a global pandemic and destructive wildfires.
But instead of feeling dark, the paintings of local birds and the plants that sustain them bring a vibrant life into the space, which, with its high ceilings and good ventilation, provide a welcome respite for visitors.
The exhibit features 18 different birds and will be on display in the gallery through Oct. 31. Private gallery visits are available for up to four members of the same household by calling 541-310-7413. Visitors may also view new work by Daniel Kubishta in the Lorenzen Board Room Galley.
Cannon’s work is highly sought-after in the northwest. She has spent years honing her craft and gaining an intimate knowledge of Pendleton’s bird life, gaining a wide following in the process.
Cannon studied illustration and fine art in Osaka, Japan and worked there as a graphic designer, creating illustrations for department stores. After immigrating to the United States in 1987 she continued to do freelance work for Women’s magazines in Japan, producing illustrations and writing articles about life in Pendleton. After taking a break to raise her children, she returned to the painting she had always loved.
In October of 2015, Cannon had her first formal solo exhibit in PCA’s East Oregonian Gallery, supported in part by the Oregon Cultural Trust. The event was nearly a sell-out, but the limited-edition reproductions of those works are still available for sale in the Center’s fine craft gallery.
Gallery patrons often ask about the size of her brushes, since the details in the work seem to rival the actual feathers and leaves she’s inspired by. But the precision does not detract from the artistry. Her paintings capture a point of view that is uniquely hers – whimsical while still displaying reverence for the beauty of our surroundings.
This body of work departs a bit from her past paintings in that the plants that sustain the birds of the region share equal time on the page. A deep knowledge gained by observation is evident in the images, and a recent visit to the garden that surrounds her North Hill home provided insight into her process. Every plant, bundle of twigs, solitary bee house, and feeder is beautifully situated, simply because it’s the best way to attract the wide variety of birds and pollinators that inhabit the space.
While there’s nothing specific from her homeland in the space, the Japanese aesthetic is evident. Everything seems to belong; nothing seems fussy or ostentatious, and there is nothing that doesn’t nurture the ecosystem as a whole. A large container of water that feeds an outcropping of yellow iris doesn’t harbor mosquitos because it’s filled with small fish that feed on the eggs. Native plants like sage brush, bunch grass and flowering rabbitbrush push out the weeds that would plague a typical garden.
For more information, visit online at pendletonarts.org.