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Students hear inspiration behind new art


Lucinda Parker talks with older students about her art and inspirations during the second of two assemblies in small gym at Lake Roosevelt. - Scott Hunter photos

An artist whose paintings hang in Lake Roosevelt Schools addressed students at a dedication of the art last week and gave insights into her inspirations for the six works depicting various birds - and one fish.

"I gotta tell you how extraordinarily beautiful this land of your is," said Lucinda Parker, of Portland, Oregon, who was commissioned for the Washington State Arts Commission project.

"Actually, it's not a landscape," she continued. "It's a great big, enormous, constantly-changing sculpture, set about with long lean lakes that think they're rivers; or is it flat, polished rivers that think they're lakes? ... You are very lucky to be living here."

It was Parker's fifth trip to Coulee Dam for the project, which comprises six 5-foot by 9-foot paintings depicting a kind of subject the impressionist has never painted before - animals of any kind.

The paintings feature great horned owls, magpies, swans, terns, turkeys, plus one with a waterfowl which she called a duck, and one fish that she said might be a brown trout.

Parker's project leans cubist in nature, and she marveled at the rock and concrete landscape set in a flowing river. But her depiction of swans still includes the long, smooth sweep of the bird's graceful neck, and text above and below. "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together," borders the top. "If a swan can swim - a person can live," lines the bottom border, a saying submitted by student Mariah Boyd.

Parker was one of three artists selected for the work by the state arts commission, which retains ownership. The final pick and subsequent guidance was done with a local committee. The paintings are among 4,500 pieces of art around the state funded by a fraction of a percentage of the construction budgets for public buildings, said Michael Sweney, program manager for Art in Public Places.

Asked by a student why she included text, Parker said she reads a lot in preparation for such a commission, and the ideas she finds in research inform her art. She wanted to share some of that with students, and also make them think.

"When you graduate and come back in five years, you might say, 'Oh, I get it now,'" she commented.

Parker puts her signature on high school student Yamni Blackbear's arm. He also got one on a printed series of cards of her art hanging in the school.

Owls' eyes reflect light; magpies are amazing birds to someone from Portland, where there are none; swans add their grace to jagged rocks; wild turkeys, nearly extinct here decades ago, have adapted to life here instead of the Rio Grande area from whence they came; terns migrate from the north to the south pole, stopping here along the way.

And the fish?

The trout beneath the duck was added at the request of a committee member, Parker said, and that is now her favorite of the paintings.

"Maybe sometimes, if you get into an argument with your committee, that's a good thing," she said.

The paintings will likely remain in the school for a very long time; the district's responsibility is to take care of them. They are available for public view anytime you visit the school, hanging in the cafeterias and stairwells.

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