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Capturing beauty

ASHLAND — Matt Witt slogged up the icy, snowy trail to the top of Pilot Rock rock with camera in hand that ultra-cold February day in 2017, hoping to chronicle the beauty of the basalt outcropping as part of his Artist in Residency stint within the Cascade Siskiyou National Momument.

Not ideal hiking conditions, but Witt didn’t care.

“From a photographer’s point of view, it makes it beautiful.” Witt says.

And the beautiful image he captured that day not only encapsulated the monument’s first year of artists in residency, it rose up as his signature piece of art among similar artists at other national monuments managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management across the United States.

The BLM chose Witt’s image for its national poster promoting the AIR program in 2017, and now the BLM is looking for three new artists with the chance to walk in Witt’s footsteps but within their own chosen media.

The BLM is seeking applicants for three artists in residence, as well as two alternates, to each spend two weeks chronicling the monument’s beauty in its 20th anniversary year.

All artists are encouraged to apply for the slots, and no particular medium, is given preference, says Chamise Kramer, who is overseeing the program.

“It’s open to anyone from painters to sculptors to photographers,” Kramer says.

After their residency, the artists will share their vision of the monument’s flora, fauna and other facets through a public display of their art, Kramer says. Also, the artists will each donate a singular digital image of their completed work to help promote the residency program and the monument at large.

“Being able to use artwork to support something like the monument is definitely a success,” Kramer says.

The BLM expects to pick three artists who work in a variety of media, with each one securing a two-week window in the monument in June, July or August.

There is no preference to local artists, Kramer says. However, locals have made up the lion’s share of those in the first three years.

That includes Jeanine Moy of Ashland, a conservation activist and watercolor dabbler who melded the two into a monument residence in 2018.

Like many of the residency artists, Moy also focused on Pilot Rock near the Oregon-California border, but she captured its summer essence in watercolors.

“Of course the monument is a place that’s very near and dear to me,” Moy says. “The opportunity to get outside and commune with nature was incredible.”

Moy has since worked the genre into her new passion running a nonprofit education program incorporated around the Vesper Meadow restoration and education program she runs, with a planned “paint-out” at the meadow this year.

Each year, the BLM chooses artists to use their particular medium to capture the “spectacular biological diversity” here as stated by President Bill Clinton when he created the initial monument east of Ashland in 2000.

There is no pay, except the chance to experiences sunrises and sunsets in the public lands spanning portions of the Cascades and Siskiyou mountains in Southern Oregon and a sliver of Northern California.

The original 66,000-acre Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument was designated by Clinton, and a 2015 scientific study recommended a larger expansion than President Barack Obama signed in 2016 to ensure that biodiversity is protected, especially when considering the threats of climate change.

The monument’s 113,013 acres are within a footprint that covers about 137,500 acres. Private lands, including more than 2,000 acres of Murphy timberland, inside that footprint remain private and are not subject to monument rules, which ban commercial timber harvest but would allow well-vetted noncommercial cutting.

Various court cases in recent years challenging the addition of federal O&C Act lands within the monument have yielded conflicting opinions and the issue remains unsolved in federal courts.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

The Top of Pilot Rock by Matt Witt