Artist’s Work on Display at Pendleton Center for the Arts Through Aug. 31

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Brian Sostrom loves the physical nature of painting; the movement created, the bold marks, subtle blends, and strange ticks in the paint that seem to belong for no logical reason.

“The best work I make is the work I couldn’t possibly reproduce,” he says.

Sostrom is exhibiting his work at the Pendleton Center for the Arts through August.

After spending a large portion of his life in front of a computer making digital art, creating something with a physical presence is important to him. Sostrom attended Washington State University, experimenting with all types of mediums, then learning about computer generated art and design. His commercial credits include a range of book cover designs, illustrations, and video games. While he considers his painting to be a vast departure from his on-screen pursuits, viewers often describe his paintings as having a “digital quality.”

“I have really become obsessed with mark making; the contrast between the sharp and soft use of paint,” he said. “The unusual result of various ways of applying paint is a fascinating thing to me.”

While he loves the work of masters like Gerhard Richter, Albert Bierstadt and J.M.W. Turner, it’s important to him that his work feels new and fresh as opposed to simply following the old traditions.

“I am always experimenting with my approach and materials,” he said. “It drives my creativity and nurtures my curiosity.”

One distinct and unique quality that is immediately apparent in the work is the surface texture.

“For years I was building up translucent surfaces with acrylic medium because I love the physical depth. At a certain point I was literally spending too much time waiting around watching paint dry. I thought, ‘why not buy plexiglass and try that?’ I waited about two years before actually trying it. I loved the slick, non-absorbent surface. It is unforgiving and captures every mark I make.”

These marks often evoke landscapes that feel familiar. While his paintings don’t depict distinct places, they are firmly rooted in the land and water of the Pacific Northwest, where he was born and raised. Based now in Idaho, he grew up around the rural Northwest and has strong ties to Astoria, which explains the prevalence of water in his imagery.

Sostrom’s paintings seek to elicit a personal, emotional response, with moody darks and luminous lights that combine to create places that are at once empty and eternal.

Concurrent with Sostrom’s exhibit in the East Oregonian Gallery, local artist Roberta Jones will exhibit her monotypes and mixed media works in PCA’s Lorenzen Board Room Gallery. Jones holds a master’s degree in painting and served as an art instructor and art coordinator in Pendleton for many years. She’s considered one of the pillars of Pendleton who fostered the art and music scene decades ago, laying the foundation for what’s now a vibrant cultural community.

In this new body of work, she is interested in the formal aspect of art making but also things like movement abstraction.

“I love the dynamism of space and shapes,” she says. “I don’t want to label things for the viewer; I want the viewer to move closer, then step back. Your view and interpretation of an artwork changes greatly when you step back.”

Though she is also known for her sculpture and painting, it’s printmaking that was Jones’ refuge as her late husband became ill and continues in her journey through dealing with grief.

“When I’m making prints, I’m operating on an unconscious level,” she said. “I’m working water-based ink onto a glass plate, and at some point it’s no longer in motion. At that stage I cover the plate with paper and rub the back of the page with my fingertips.”

Jones then peels back the paper and decides whether she needs to respond to the image with additional marks. She sometimes incorporates pencil, collage or other mediums, but always keeps the imagery open to interpretation.

“It’s a way for people to see into themselves and to see into my thought process too,” she says.

Both exhibits, which run through Aug. 31, are made possible through the support of local art patrons Cam Preus and Lindsay Ball. The galleries, along with the Pendleton Foundation Trust Fine Craft Gallery, are open to guests Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m., or by appointment during off-hours. Admission is always free. More information is available by calling 541-278-9201.