To mark the 100th anniversary of the Grand Canyon National Park, some East Valley artists are taking their celebrations right to the edge.
They are participating in the Grand Canyon Celebration of Art, Sept. 7—Jan. 21 with seven days of art events and a four-month exhibition in Kolb Studio on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.
President Woodrow Wilson designated the Grand Canyon, then a national monument, a national park on Feb. 26, 1919.
Among the 27 artists from across the state participating this year are Matt Sterbenz, Chandler; Linda Glover Gooch, Mesa; Mick McGinty, Gilbert; and Amery Bohling, a Phoenix resident with a gallery on Main Street in Scottsdale. Celebrated artist Ed Mell of Scottsdale will be honored during the four-month exhibition.
Hosted each year by the Grand Canyon Conservancy, the 11th annual event is particularly significant, given the centennial.
“Grand Canyon Conservancy is dedicated to preserving the park for the next generation. With Celebration of Art, artists will capture the beauty of the canyon during its centennial year and we hope this artwork inspires everyone to protect this natural wonder for the next 100 years,” said Mindy Riesenberg, spokeswoman for the Grand Canyon Conservancy
Artists had to submit a studio painting for the annual catalog and are encouraged to bring other Grand Canyon- themed works to sell.
Their on-site work Sept. 7-14 is “en plein air” — that is, they set up their easels and spontaneously create on the spot.
All the paintings created during the Celebration of Art can be purchased in the Kolb Studio, and proceeds will help build a gallery for the art collection of the Grand Canyon Conservancy, formerly the Grand Canyon Association.
The new building will also house the art collection of the Grand Canyon National Park at the South Rim, which will host an open house during the Celebration of Art on 1-3 p.m. Sept. 13.
“Plein air painting is all about painting directly from life, and in the case of the Grand Canyon, it means setting up my easel right on the edge of the rim,” said Sterbenz, a native Arizonan.
Sterbenz began painting oils of the Grand Canyon during grade school in Phoenix, attended Hamilton High School in Chandler and graduated from Arizona State University, where he was introduced to creating outdoors.
“When painting from life, the subject matter is always changing and endlessly complex, and at a place like the Grand Canyon there is a whole lot of beauty to take in,” he added, noting:
“Plein air painting has taught me to go with the flow, appreciate mother nature, work hard and hopefully I’ll get a good painting out of it.”
The opportunity to participate during this centennial year is “an honor” for McGinty, a career illustrator who relocated to the Valley from the Midwest in 2007 with wife Kerry and now joyously paints and golfs in retirement.
Inspired by artists such as Prescott’s Bill Cramer, he is working on transitioning his craft from an illustrator’s detail-orientation to creating textures that engage the viewer.
“The canyon never gets old standing on the edge and wondering, ‘How did this ever get formed?’ The park itself offers an experience that our parents and grandparents have also shared, standing in awe,” he added.
“I’m also very grateful to not only be a visitor but a painter,” McGinty said. “What better subject could you find?”
Mesa’s Linda Glover Gooch lives with her husband Joe near Usery Mountain, where she is inspired by the sunsets and desert terrain. For her, plein air painting allows her to move around and see the canyon differently; she’s been painting there since 2005.
“At the canyon this year, I plan to try and find some new locations I haven’t visited, some views that are new to me and paint the best I can,” she said.
An associate pastor at her church, she sees the Grand Canyon artistically, emotionally, sacredly.
“After spending many hours there, you find yourself becoming intimate with space around you,” she explained, adding:
“The canyon is like an old friend or going home. It is a spiritual place for me, as my source is the Lord, and I find myself focusing on Him and what He gave us to richly enjoy.”
For Bohling, working at the canyon provides her time for centering, creating, socializing and fund-raising for the planned art gallery.
“I am spending my time painting with good friends in my favorite place,” Bohling said. “I do not have to worry about paperwork and emails; I just focus on having this time and living in the moment,” she said. “And, I am helping to bring attention to the canyon as a place of beauty and art.”
The artistry of well-known Clark Hulings first attracted Bohling to the Grand Canyon — in particular, his painting, “Grand Canyon — Kaibab Trail.”
“I loved it so much that I wanted to locate the location in his painting,” she recalled.
After searching, she found the spot and used it for inspiration for this year’s February “Arizona Highways” cover.
The canyon always offers new scenes for artworks.
“Rivers, cliffs, meadows, wranglers, wildlife and waterfalls. You have snow and desert and weather,” she said. “It is dramatic and steeped in geology and history. It’s addictive.”
The Celebration of Art is challenging for the artists and engaging for guests.
“People can get up close to the artists, ask questions, and see how the artwork is created,” Sterbenz said. “I think this public interaction is the most important, because the public gets to experience the park in a unique way and develop a better appreciation for this incredible natural wonder.
“The canyon is an endless source of inspiration for everyone. Each time I paint it, I learn something new.”