The color images of “Northwest Drylands” photographer John Clement like Divine Rays and Bringing in the Sheaves show the influence of two prominent American watercolor artists whose works he has closely studied since starting his career in the 1970s—Winslow Homer and Andrew Wyeth. Early in his career, Clement studied Wyeth’s watercolors and learned that the drier Pennsylvania prairie environments and underlying abstractions depicted in his paintings held lessons in originality for photography of the arid Columbia Plateau grainlands. The Tri-City native’s unpeopled landscapes, which earned him induction into the Professional Photographers of America International Hall of Fame, typically feature evidence of humanity’s presence—barns and fences, retired farm machinery, and fields of maturing grain. His ideas about the “saturating luminosity” of dawn and dusk suggest affinity with the nineteenth century American Luminists and pioneers of twentieth century color photography whose detailed agrarian views beneath soft, hazy skies engender feelings of tranquility and spiritual appreciation.
Artist Kathleen Hooks of Pasco, Washington, developed an intuitive Tonalist “art of rural life” style inspired by her own agrarian experience and the broad landscapes of Franklin County and the Columbia Plateau. She began painting professionally in the 1990s and created highly detailed watercolors of draft animals and other livestock but shifted to oils at the end of the decade for contemplative en plein air depictions of shadow and graduated color. In the spirit of Hudson River School Tonalists a century ago, Hooks’s subdued canvases emphasize the formal elements of style using color, line, and shape to impart moods from depictions that exist mysteriously between realism and abstraction. She is drawn to the “mature landscapes of summer” as fulfillment of nature’s metamorphosis. “We are surrounded by harvest where we live—cutting wheat, digging potatoes, picking fruit;” Hooks observes, “and the isolation of rural life appeals to me.”