Snake River Basin: 72 Paintings — New Book by Mark W. McGinnis

srb book cover - 2013-10-26 at 15-19-36

Available in Paperback or Kindle versions at Amazon.com

Artist’s Statement

As I type these words I look at the blood vessels running through the back of my hands and fingers bringing oxygen and nutrients necessary for my life to continue. The Snake River Basin is much the same — its vast system of rivers, streams and lakes brings sustenance to one of the most beautiful regions of the United States.

The Snake River Basin stretches from the river’s headwaters in Yellowstone Park, Wyoming to the convergence of the Snake River with the Columbia River in Washington State. It encompasses nearly all of Idaho, a large section of Eastern Oregon, and parts of Washington, Wyoming, and Nevada. It is the drainage system for over two dozen mountain ranges including the Sawtooth, White Cloud, Bitterroot, Teton, Blue, and Owyhee.

There are also over two dozen tributary rivers that flow into the Snake River. These include the Boise, Big Wood, Clearwater, Palouse, Grand Ronde, Malheur, Payette, Weiser, Powder, Salt, and a great waterway in its own right, the Salmon River, the longest undammed river in the lower 48 states. Add to this the seemingly countless named and unnamed creeks, springs and lakes and you have one of North America’s most diverse and beautiful areas.

I lived most of my life on the flat lands of northeastern South Dakota. It is a place dominated by the enormous, ever-changing sky above and subtle beauties below. In moving to Idaho I was confronted with a vastly different environment. These paintings were a way to become acquainted with this region.

It was not my purpose to create photographically accurate images of the sites I chose. I filtered my visual experience through my perception, creativity, and skills and offer the viewer an experience of the Snake River Basin through my interpretation.

I traveled to all the sites depicted in this series and did photographic research. To be present with the trees, rivers, mountains, and air of the place was critical to the project. Back in my studio, I used my visual research and experience to create the paintings. The actual place depicted in each painting contains ten, twenty, maybe one hundred times more information than my painting. My goal was to select what I found of most interest in regard to place, color, and pattern. Deciding what to paint and what not to paint — what to edit out and what to emphasize was a primary part of my creative process.

The original paintings are all 11” X 14” on Fabriano Artistico Soft Press 300 pound paper. The painting medium is Golden Fluid Acrylics for the interior sections of the works and Maimeri Metallic Acrylics for the borders. The paper and fluid acrylics were chosen specifically as both are well-suited for both opaque and transparent painting techniques. This fusion of opaque and transparent ways of applying the paint to the paper is something I have been evolving for many years and continue to do so with each painting.

As with many of my projects in past years, this undertaking was a kind of self-education — an education of place. I hope the paintings might also help to reinforce the idea that the Snake River Basin is a great treasure. In the 20th Century this remarkable water system was manipulated and used for power, agriculture and mining. This created many benefits for some of the people of the region, but also caused much damage to the natural system. In the 21st Century my hope is that we preserve what is still here and restore what we can.

Mark W. McGinnis

The Final 8 Paintings of the Snake River Basin Project

Yes, the paintings are complete — 72 of them. Now the book version — I will let you know when its ready.

Snake River Basin: Snake River in East Idaho, 11" X 14", acrylic on paper, 2013, Mark W. McGinnis
Snake River Basin: Snake River in East Idaho, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on paper, 2013,                           Mark W. McGinnis

 

 

Snake River Basin: Snake River Headwaters, 11" X 14", acrylic on paper, 2013,  Mark W. McGinnis
Snake River Basin: Snake River Headwaters, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on paper, 2013,
Mark W. McGinnis

 

Snake River Basin: Snake River and Grand Tetons, 11" X 14", acrylic on paper, 2013, Mark W. McGinnis
Snake River Basin: Snake River and Grand Tetons, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on paper, 2013,                      Mark W. McGinnis

 

Snake River Basin: Salt River, 11" X 14", acrylic on paper, 2013, Mark W. McGinnis
Snake River Basin: Salt River, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on paper, 2013, Mark W. McGinnis

 

Snake River Basin: Hoback River, 11" X 14", acrylic on paper, 2013, Mark W. McGinnis
Snake River Basin: Hoback River, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on paper, 2013, Mark W. McGinnis

 

Snake River Basin: Gros Ventre River, 11" X 14", acrylic on paper, 2013, Mark W. McGinnis
Snake River Basin: Gros Ventre River, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on paper, 2013, Mark W. McGinnis

 

Snake River Basin: Grey River, 11" X 14", acrylic on paper, 2013, Mark W. McGinnis
Snake River Basin: Grey River, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on paper, 2013, Mark W. McGinnis

 

Snake River Basin: Snake River in East Idaho Snake River Basin: Confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers, 11" X 14", acrylic on paper, 2013, Mark W. McGinnis
Snake River Basin: Confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on paper, 2013, Mark W. McGinnis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Earth Day and the Parasitic Painter (a morality tale)

srb-salmon river

Snake River Basin: Salmon River, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on 300lb. paper, 2013, Mark W. McGinnis

Once upon a time (and space) there was an unfolding and expanding universe. Among its seemingly countless galaxies is our Milky Way galaxy. Within the Milky Way galaxy are seemingly countless stars, one of which is our own sun. In the debris that circles that sun is rock called the Earth. On that rock has evolved seemingly countless life forms, one of which is a robust parasite called human beings.

There is a beautiful spot on that planet called the Snake River Basin. In one of the Snake River’s many valleys, near the Boise River, one of the Snake’s seemingly countless tributaries, there lives a parasitic painter called Mark McGinnis. Being new to the region the painter decided to explore the area and paint what he found. He found great geographic diversity: mountains, deserts, forests, rivers, lakes, streams, creeks and more. While the parasites had done some DAMage to the system it still maintained much of its beauty and life-giving bounty. The parasite painter hoped that his paintings might inspire others to preserve and maybe even, in time, restore this lovely area of the earth.

He was able to hope this because of a rather painful evolutionary trait the parasites had developed called consciousness. It had enabled the species its great success and also enabled it to damage its hostess, the Earth. Now that same consciousness had the capability undoing some of the harm it had wrought and the parasites created a holiday to honor that new consciousness. The parasites, not being too imaginative, called it Earth Day.

copyright 2013 Mark W.  McGinnis

(presented to the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Boise ID, April 21, 2013)

18 New Paintings for the Snake River Basin Project

The following are 18 new paintings for my Snake River Basin Project. They are mostly from Southwest Idaho, Eastern Oregon, and Central Eastern Idaho. All are 11″ X 14″, acrylic on 300# paper.

srb-mores creek -lr copy
Mores Creek, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on 300# paper, 2013, Mark W. McGinnis
srb-owyhee river
Owyhee River, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on 300# paper, 2013, Mark W. McGinnis
srb-malheur-south fork
Malheur River-South Fork, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on 300# paper, 2013, Mark W. McGinnis
srb-powder river valley
Powder River Valley, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on 300# paper, 2013, Mark W. McGinnis
srb-malhuer river
Malheur River, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on 300# paper, 2013, Mark W. McGinnis
srb-billingsley creek -lr
Billingsley Creek, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on 300# paper, 2013, Mark W. McGinnis
srb-malard river gorge-or
Malad River Gorge, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on 300# paper, 2013, Mark W. McGinnis
srb-1000 springs
1000 Springs, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on 300# paper, 2013, Mark W. McGinnis
srb-snake river at 3 island crossing
Snake River at Three Island Crossing, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on 300# paper, 2013, Mark W. McGinnis
srb-shoshone falls on the snake river crossing
Shoshone Falls on the Snake River, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on 300# paper, 2013, Mark W. McGinnis
srb-snake river valley
Snake River Canyon, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on 300# paper, 2013, Mark W. McGinnis
srb-spring near shoshone falls
Spring Near Shoshone Falls, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on 300# paper, 2013, Mark W. McGinnis
srb-salmon river
Salmon River, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on 300# paper, 2013, Mark W. McGinnis
srb-bruneau river canyon
Bruneau River Canyon, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on 300# paper, 2013, Mark W. McGinnis
srb-salmon river-north fork
Salmon River-North Fork, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on 300# paper, 2013, Mark W. McGinnis
srb-salmon river-north fork 1
Pahsimeroi River, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on 300# paper, 2013, Mark W. McGinnis
srb-salmon river-east fork
Salmon River-East Fork, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on 300# paper, 2013, Mark W. McGinnis
srb-lehmi river
Lehmi River, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on 300# paper, 2013, Mark W. McGinnis

Essay: No Need For Meaning

Snake River Basin: Boise River and Willow, 11″ X14″, acrylic on 300lb. paper, 2012, Mark W. McGinnis

In reading Edward Abbey’s 1968 book, Desert Solitaire, I came across the sentence; “It is as it is and has no need for meaning.” The statement was made in regard to one of Abbey’s many reflections on the condition of the desert of the canyon land southwest.

What struck me about the statement was the universal applicability of the concept. Meaning need not be applied to pristine desert landscape with the setting sun flooding the rock with colors and value, it simply is. The same could be said for a scene described a few pages earlier in the book where he comes upon a frequent campsite that is scattered with the refuse of the people who frequented the site. Abbey described them as Slobivius americanus. I recently felt the same disgust when I was walking a favorite stretch of the Boise River greenbelt to find half a dozen plastic bottles floating in the river and human debris along the shore. Immediately negative judgments came to my mind but there is no more meaning in the garbage than in the sunset, both simply are. This very hard for me because I want to make judgments — I want to put the subjective meaning of my values on the experiences.

This has been a valued and long-standing aspect of my personality. It is certainly related to a 30 year teaching career in the fine arts, where subjective judgments were at the core of what I did every hour of my teaching day. The same mindset carried through into my personal creative life where my judgments were continually engaged to bring meaning into my art projects.

What is meaning? Is it part of the conscious process? Is it the drive to want to know why? Is it part of the associative process of thinking that helped us to survive but has now run amuck. I feel I am constantly looking for meaning to the extent that I miss want is happening now, which is the only true time there is. If  meaning is what something signifies or the purpose of something, in most cases we already have an intuitive understanding that needs little elaboration. Subjective meanings often complicate and confuse what is self-evident.

Am I finally at the point in my life that I am ready to abandon the need for applied subjective meaning and live life for what is? I hope I am. I turn on the radio and accidently hear the news (I try not listen). I hear of the massacres in Syria or a group of wealthy senators doing their best to stop 30 million poor Americans from obtaining minimal healthcare.  I want to put meaning on those events. I want to cry out against those callous, unfeeling, barbarians in the Congress. I want to project my judgments – but why? Certainly from the perspective of the big picture (the Earth, the Universe) they are miniscule if not meaningless. I am miniscule from that vantage point as well. I simply am – another little piece of cosmic dust very temporarily arranged in this organic arrangement, albeit with the blessing or curse of consciousness. Is that a bleak or fantastic view of existence? One part of me knows that all is simply a long, long unfolding of energy and matter. The ego part of me wants to scream out, “No! No! I am much more than that.” It is hard for me, and I think many others, to accept our place in this universe. But the tiny bits of wisdom that others have gifted to me want to say, “To be a part of this cosmic story, no matter how small, is miraculous beyond comprehension.”

I have come to the conclusion there is no meaning other that the unfolding of cause and effect. When I accept this, the question then arises if anything in our lives matter if they have no deeper meaning than cause and effect? (This question has been asked by some of the greatest minds in history and I feel rather sheepish posing it.)  How should I live my life if this is true? This a recurring question of my musings over many years. My life is as much part of a series of cosmic cause and effects as was the Big Bang. By my decisions, and those imposed on me, I shape my place in this system and by my existence I infinitesimally change the system. It simply “is.”

I have come to believe that as I move through the unfolding of cause and effect I should try to make it as pleasant an experience as possible for me, those around me, and the rest of existence. Not because it gives meaning, but because it creates pleasure and harmony — or is that meaning? It makes this short time I have a joy rather than a sorrow. This may seem a rather simplistic, hedonistic life view but it is not as easy as it sounds. For some reason my mind often focuses on sorrows rather than joys and spreads those sorrows to others. If I can leave the subjective meanings my mind behind and focus on what “is” in the moment — as the cause and effect unfolds — I have a much better chance of making that moment pleasant for myself and others.  Why not?

Post Script:  A short story related to littering mentioned early in the essay. Many years ago I had group of art students in a secluded valley of Northeastern South Dakota. We were going to do some watercolor sketching. It was a beautiful spring day and we were along the stream that ran through the valley. There a wonderful, water-loving yellow flower was profusely blooming along the banks. Unfortunately the area was also profusely littered with cans, bottles, wrappers, and other garbage. I was outraged that such beauty would be tarnished by human disregard, and my mood sunk and I grumbled and grumbled to myself. As I was walking around checking on where my students were settling in to do their painting I noticed one of the students (the most punked-out student of the bunch as it was during those years) had set aside his materials and was walking around making piles of the garbage to facilitate easier clean up. It was a revelation to me that instead of getting angry and complaining, the best reaction to the moment was what the student was doing.  I am not always successful living what I know, as I wasn’t earlier in this essay, but when I remember that student, it is a lesson to me to not project meaning or judgment and just do what needs to be done.

© 2012 Mark W. McGinnis

The NEW Snake River Basin Series

Yes, the NEW Snake River Basin Series. I am afraid the PREVIOUS Snake River Basin Series, consisting of large scale multi-panel pieces, was too much for my physical limitations and I have had to revision my approach. This new series will all be 11″ X 14″. acrylic on 300# paper. The Snake River Basin encompasses most of Idaho, and parts of Wyoming, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. It is my hope to sample much of this region in the coming years.

Snake River Basin: Payette River, South Fork, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on 300# paper, 2012, Mark W. McGinnis
Snake River Basin: Salmon River, Near Headwaters, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on 300# paper, 2012, Mark W. McGinnis
Snake River Basin: Lower Salmon River, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on 300# paper, 2012, Mark W. McGinnis
Snake River Basin: Jordan Creek, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on 300# paper, 2012, Mark W. McGinnis
Snake River Basin: Snake River in Hell’s Canyon, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on 300# paper, 2012, Mark W. McGinnis
Snake River Basin: Weiser River, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on 300# paper, 2012, Mark W. McGinnis
Snake River Basin: Payette River, North Fork, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on 300# paper, 2012, Mark W. McGinnis
Snake River Basin: Owyhee River, North Fork, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on 300# paper, 2012, Mark W. McGinnis
Snake River Basin: Little Salmon River, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on 300# paper, 2012, Mark W. McGinnis
Snake River Basin: Boise River in Flood, 11″ X 14″, acrylic on 300# paper, 2012, Mark W. McGinnis

Snake River Basin #4: Celebration County Park on the Snake River

This is the fourth paintings in a series of works expressing the great variety of the Snake River Basin that includes most of Idaho and extends into sections of  Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Oregon, and Washington.  The painting is done on seventeen Claybord panels and  painted with Golden Fluid acrylics. The size is approximately 70″ X 50″. It was done in 2012.

Snake River Basin #2: Shoshone Falls

This is the second paintings in a series of works expressing the great variety of the Snake River Basin that includes most of Idaho and extends into sections of  Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Oregon, and Washington.  The painting is done on eight Claybord panels and  painted with Golden Fluid acrylics. The size is approximately 72″ X 48″. It was done in 2011.

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Snake River Basin #1: Malad Gorge

This is the first paintings in a series of works expressing the great variety of the Snake River Basin that includes most of Idaho and extends into sections of  Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Oregon, and Washington.  The painting is done on nine Claybord panels and  painted with Golden Fluid acrylics. The size is approximately 68″ X 68″. It was done in 2011.

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(Very Short) Essay of the Month: Accepting the Gift

This world is filled with suffering and injustice. Where and when we have the ability we should try to lessen these problems. But in our short time of existence we should also enjoy the great beauty and goodness that is all around us. The wonder of a grain of sand to the expanse of the universe is not a gift to be wasted.  (copyright 2011 Mark W. McGinnis)

Snake River Basin #1 (Malad Gorge), 68" X 68", acrylic on nine panels, 2011, Mark W. McGinnis