Ken O’Connell Retrospective Open All of July at the Karin Clarke Gallery

Jul 9, 2020



Ken O'Connell, "Ghost Ranch NM #1" Oil.
Credit By permission of the Karin Clarke Gallery

We’ve had a cool opening to summer, and a cool opening is what you’ll experience this month at the Karin Clarke Gallery, where Eugene artist Ken O’Connell has a one-person show.

I first met Ken when I just sort of stumbled into a travel sketchbook workshop downstairs at the UO Bookstore. He was fully engaged with everyone with clarity and a sharp eye, quality I looked for in this current show.

Although Ken really is associated with his travel sketchbooks, this show addresses that imbalance of public perception by focusing on his larger paintings: oils, watercolors, drawings, woodcuts, and silkscreen prints.

Ken O'Connell, "Ontario Hills 1975," Charcoal
Credit By permission of Karin Clarke Gallery

You will find your own favorites for your own reasons, but I really fell hard for an oil of Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. What I noticed were the red and yellow landforms so familiar to anyone who has visited these “Cliffs of Shining Stone.” A strong wedge of blue sky with just a breath of wisping clouds dominates the top third.

Angling up into the sky is a strong ochre butte. The middle and foreground features one of the intriguing beauties of that desert, rose-colored stacks of Mesozoic sedimentary rock.

This painting is telling the story of deep time, 170 million years of geologic change. O’Connell has reduced an already essential landscape to color, angle, butte, time, memory, stone. If you already know this is dinosaur country, it’s not hard to imagine them here in a lost age.

Ken O'Connell, "PLanes of a Different Color," 1988 Pastel
Credit By permission of Karin Clarke Gallery

This painting reminds me of my own magical journey to Ghost Ranch. But O’Connell’s painting also allows me to reflect on Oregon’s own John Day Fossil Beds and Owyhee Canyon.

There is a lot to see and think about in this show, which is up until Aug. 1st. You can meet Ken in person on Fridays 4 to 6 pm on July 10, 24, and 31st.

The gallery is around the corner from the Saturday Market at 760 Willamette, a classic Eugene combo.


Don't forget to slow down, take your time looking at each painting. Think about what you see. Connect it to your own life.

Viz City is co-produced by Terry Way and Sandy Brown Jensen.