Winter Prairie-rain and rainbow

Playa-works from a Winter Prairie

For the month of November 2017, I was thrilled to work as an artist in residence at Playa, My residency was also supported in part by a grant from the Ford Family Foundation.

Playa provides residencies for visual artists, writers and poets, scientists and composers. My colleagues this November were three geologists, an ecologist, several writers and two other visual artists.

Having just completed the works in "Patchwork Prairie" series, I went to this high desert region of southern Oregon with a fresh eye. My goal was to respond directly to this winter season in that landscape. I began with a group of acrylic paintings on smooth paper and then I shifted to the 16 x20" pieces on watercolor paper and finally to the larger works. The selected works here are among the best examples of what I completed.

Playa is a terrific place in which to work, to meet other artists and scientists and writers who are also seeking clarity and meaning in the world we share every day.

Modern Landscapes/Road and Range

Modern Landscapes

As I have worked through the Patchwork Prairies, images emerged that wanted attention but were outside of the immediate compositional structures of the partial grids shaping that series. I see this group of paintings growing as I move forward on new work.

Patchwork Prairie 11

Patchwork Prairies

In these works I enjoyed using the field shapes and patterns in rather geometric abstract compositions. In some works the image of a country road sets a larger rectangular grid among the otherwise arbitrary field shapes. There is something poetic about small clusters of dwellings that set country road intersections or exist as neighbors across a wide expanse that I really like. I often think that these little clusters of houses are portraits of those who live within.

Stillness 6


For me there are times of the day, especially in the middle of the summer, when there is not a breath of air, not a cloud moving, not a tree branch waving, when there is a stillness that has the weight of gravity. The paintings in this group are my attempt to put the look and feel of those fleeting still moments into form.

Stillness 4

Perfect: Part One, 2015–2016

Along with the paintings of the arid Western landscape, I continue to create work featuring the rural landscape. Of these works, two groups, “Painter’s Farm” and “Stillness” were exhibited as “Perfect: Part One” at William Campbell Contemporary Art, Ft. Worth Texas in the spring and summer of 2016

Full Moon Desert Highway

Painter's Desert, 2014–2015

I arrived in New Mexico in January 1966. Having grown up in the lush green of Western Oregon, New Mexico was a great new visual experience. Within days of arriving, I was painting my first New Mexico inspired images. Looking back I was too impatient as an artist, too quick to dismiss much of the work done by earlier generations with that landscape to do anything of substance. Now, years later, I learned how I could to make my own works inspired by this place of stark forms beneath spectacular skies. In the fall of 2015 these paintings and watercolors were exhibited at Exhibit 208 Gallery in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Mountains and Fields 3, 2013

Prairies, 2013–2014

In 2006 I refocused my work onto the American agricultural landscape. For the first five years I developed this work in my studio in upstate New York. Following our return to Oregon I continued to explore this subject matter.

The Prairies created in Oregon led to an invitation from Amanda Hunt to create a billboard image of one of these paintings for Portland 2014: A Biennial of Contemporary Art. That billboard was installed near down town Portland. Here is a time-lapse video of its installation.

Copyright © 2017, Richard Thompson