A pair of art exhibits now on view in Albany pay tribute to the work of Lynn Powers, the mid-valley watercolor artist, graphic designer, teacher and 35-year Albany resident who died unexpectedly on March 1, at 65 years old.
Her husband Jim and family, along with The Albany Arts Commission and Gallery Calapooia, decided to honor her by sharing her artwork at the pair of exhibitions, titled "Lynn Powers: A Life in Full Color." The exhibits opened earlier this month at Albany City Hall and Gallery Calapooia, where she was a founding member.
To celebrate the life and art of Powers, two special receptions will be held Saturday night back-to-back at each gallery. A trolley is available to shuttle visitors between the two downtown Albany galleries.
The exhibitions display more than 60 of her paintings, posters and art teaching boards that were framed and hung in the galleries by Jim Powers and their friends Susan and Jim Bourdet and Rachael Bourdet Oehler.
"She's never had an exhibit of this many paintings in one place, so people have only seen one or two at a time or three at most," Jim Powers said.
A series of six floral paintings, titled "The Powers Flowers," are on display for the first time.
Jim says Lynn used the term "to wallow in color," to describe how she worked in many washes of color, over and over again with one painting. Viewers may see the hundreds of layers of color she used to give the painting life, he said.
"I always felt she was trying to look for the soul of the plant or the person she was painting," Jim added.
Linda J. Herd, vice president of Gallery Calapooia and chair of the Albany Arts Commission, says Powers was well-known for her portrait paintings and graphic design work.
"She designed many of the River Rhythms posters. She also designed the city of Albany logos and fire and police logos," Herd said.
She was co-owner of Creative Catalyst Productions Inc., a company where she helped create educational art videos for working artists. Last year, she was named one of the up-and-coming artists in the United States by Watercolor Artist Magazine.
"My mother spent a lot of time watching her mom," said Ben Powers, her son. "My grandmother (Jan Kunz) is one of the world's most acclaimed watercolorists."
Powers also enjoyed taking pictures of people and was always looking for an interesting face, particularly older ones — people who had experienced full lives. "One of her paintings is of a woman who is 106 years old," Jim said.
At the time of her death, she was working on the first portrait in a series of "Strong Women of Albany," named "Pharaba," after the woman featured. It would be Lynn's final painting.
While going through her paintings for the exhibition, Jim says he found at least three versions of that same painting where she had redone the entire portrait.
"She was very tenacious and unwilling to settle for less than what she wanted," Jim said.
"The sadness I still carry now is in the last two or three weeks of her life she had come to the realization that she had developed her own style that was uniquely hers, and she was really ready to go with it," he added.
"One of the things we're all so sad about is what we would have seen, if my mother had a little more time to get her work out there," Ben said.
City Hall is attracting more visitors than usual with the exhibition, Herd said.
"It's the first time I've seen people at an opening stand close to paintings and study them. That made me feel pretty good," Jim Powers said.
Although people knew her work focused on watercolors, Ben Powers said viewers of the exhibits will be surprised by the diversity of the work on display.
"It almost felt like there were ten artists we were looking at," he said.
The family chose not to sell her original artwork. Seventy of her paintings have been digitized and are available for purchase, so more people can enjoy her art, Jim Powers said.
Proceeds from those sales will go to the Lynn Powers Art Fund in the Albany Public Schools Foundation. This was a way the family could keep her spirit alive, because art education in public schools was important to her, Jim said.
Ben Powers, who lives in Portland, is also in the process of creating a separate foundation that will provide artists with technology to promote themselves. One such technology is currently being used at the participating galleries, a virtual tour of Lynn's home studio and the exhibits, available via text message on smartphone (text Lynn to 24587) and online.
"That's very much in keeping up with Lynn's mission to be able to support artists in what they do," Herd said.
Jim and his children Ben, Kyna, Kelly and grandchildren will be joined at the receptions by Lynn's 94-year-old mother and family members from both sides traveling from California and the East Coast.
Herd expects many friends, mid-valley artists and Lynn's fellow Oregon Watercolor Society members will also attend the celebration.
"That's really what this is, a celebration of Lynn's life and sharing the beauty she brought to us and everybody in Albany and surrounding areas," Herd said.
"It's a chance for the community and the people who loved her to be in one place and acknowledge that," Jim said.