" ‘As an artist I try to communicate a sense of wonder, to transform the ordinary to the extraordinary, with my focus on the natural landscape.’ " -- Pamela Kendall Schiffer

Pamela Kendall Schiffer (Submitted photo)
Pamela Kendall Schiffer (Submitted photo)

“Yellowstone and Yosemite,” and exhibit of paintings by Pamela Kendall Schiffer, is on display at the Kristin-Wigley Fleming Fine Arts Gallery, Center for the Arts at Luther College through Dec. 11.

Pamela Kendall Schiffer, a California native, studied painting and ceramics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, earning her B.A. in 1982. Her work has been exhibited at the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming, and in California at the Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, Westmont College and the Museum of Ventura County.

Her paintings are painstakingly created from dozens of layers of paint, working from sketches and photographs taken during multiple visits to each sight.
Though the natural setting is always a focus of the work, she prefers to depict these landscapes in ways that are not “standard” focusing only on the most important qualities, the atmosphere and the light.

Gallery owner Craig Krull, on the subject of Schiffer’s work, noted that, “It is perhaps Schiffer’s quality of light that is the most sacred and evocative element of her work. Her interpretations of moon glow are as haunting as an Albert Pinkham Ryder, and her depictions of flattened light in cloud-covered snow scenes give one the sense that their evenness of light is symbolic of a quiet harmony of all things.”

To learn more about Schiffer and her current art projects, visit pamelakendallschiffer.com.

On art and artists: A conversation with Pamela Kendall Schiffer

Decorah Newspapers: What’s integral to the work of an artist? What role does the artist have in society?
It requires patience and hard work to be a serious artist, and discipline to commit to a regular schedule in the studio. It takes a good amount of time to develop a set of skills with which to do quality work.

Also important is creating work that reflects a personal and unique vision. I try to combine my curiosity of the world with a sense of keen observation. I pay attention.

The artist is someone who interprets things in a creative manner and communicates those ideas with their chosen medium. I feel the best work is that which engages directly with the heart and has the ability to move others. With my landscape work, I hope to inspire others to embrace the natural world with wonder and awe.

DN: What has been a seminal experience?
I’ve had several opportunities to work privately in very remote places, such as painting the Channel Islands in California for a year as part of a National Park anniversary, or doing a solo art residency on virgin prairie land in northern Montana.

About nine years ago I was offered an artist residency at the Ucross Foundation near Sheridan Wyo., and spent a month painting there in the dead of winter—I was provided with a beautiful art studio and living space. It was a great luxury to do nothing but work all day and then gather with eight other residents (visual artists, musicians and composers, writers and playwrights) in the evenings to enjoy a fine meal and conversation. We often talked about the creative process—it was very collegial.

DN: What art do you most identify with?
That’s a good question, because it might surprise some people to know that despite the fact that I paint the landscape, I like a lot of minimalist work as much as representational art.

I love Vermeer, who is at the top of my list of favorites. I also love Turner, Whistler, Pierro Della Francesca, Corot, Inness, Monet, Ryder, Morandi, O’Keeffe; then there’s Agnes Martin and Ad Reinhardt, strong minimalists; contemporary artists James Turrell, Sean Scully, Gerhard Richter, David Hockney, Richard Serra, Lee Bontecou; of this group, only Richter is associated with landscape painting, and only a bit at that.

What appeals to me most is work that conveys the idea of pure beauty, in abstraction or not.

DN: What work do you most enjoying doing?
Oil painting is my medium of choice for about 20 years, but I also enjoy working with my hands. I love to work with clay, and plan to do more ceramic work in the future.

DN: What is an artistic outlook on life?
I’ve always been a keen observer of things since I was young. As an artist I try to communicate a sense of wonder, to transform the ordinary to the extraordinary, with my focus on the natural landscape.

DN: What memorable responses have you had to your work?
Several times I’ve had people come to me after looking at a painting of mine (as at an opening) with tears in their eyes to tell me that a certain painting has really moved them. It’s incredibly powerful to receive such an emotional response to my work. It makes me feel as though I’ve done something right.

DN: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

An older man once told me that his best advice to everyone was to “talk to people” — because connecting with people is the most rewarding of life’s experiences. I believe that too.

DN: Is there anything else you would like to say about your work?
There will be a grand National Parks Centennial Celebration throughout the U.S. this coming year. I think August 2016 is a big month for the celebration. I’ll be having a show at a gallery that represents me in Los Angeles on new Yellowstone pieces in Fall 2016.
The timing will be very good to call more attention to what I’ve done for the past four years now in painting Yosemite and Yellowstone. And also to call attention to those two parks. I feel reverent towards these places anyway -- in a big way -- and decided to use those parks as a focus for my work for a while, not knowing anything about the centennial. But it’s a happy coincidence.