The recently published art book, “Michael Gibbons – Painting in Nature,” bears a dedication by Brian Ferriso, executive director and chief curator of the Portland Art Museum.
âThe power of a great artist is to help us see more of what is directly in front of us and in doing so provide a visual residue that we wear throughout our daily lives,â he wrote. . The new book, released earlier this month in the late artist’s gallery and the Yaquina River Museum of Art, both in Toledo, fulfills that mission – and portrays the power of Gibbons’ art.
Gibbons, who passed away in July 2020, painted the Yaquina River landscape for more than 40 years, leaving an artistic legacy that speaks to the beauty and importance of nature. James Nelson, project manager for the book and curator of the Yaquina River Museum, calls the book a “meaningful tribute to Michael’s lifelong commitment to creating paintings that not only capture the beauty of our land, but also his “spiritual voice”.
“People who thought they knew Michael were very surprised at what the book said about how he felt when he was painting,” said Judy Gibbons. âIt’s revealing for most people, especially his spirituality, which really carried and supported him in what was a solitary vocation.
âHe said he spoke to God all day when he painted, and when he painted outdoors, God spoke to him,â she said. “And when he went to his studio to paint – in the old (Methodist) church in Toledo – he prayed and thanked God.”
She added that his spirituality is reflected in the fact that when he renovated the old church to make it his workshop, he installed a crucifix and cherubic angels near the roof beams.
Judy said the book is a tribute to the life and work of her late husband and to the depiction of the âvoice of natureâ in his outdoor paintings (painted outdoors).
She recalled that the idea for the book was born about 10 years ago. âMichael wanted to write a book about himself and started writing memoirs,â she said. Although nothing came of his writing at the time, he continued to write, and during a visit from The Greenbrier Companies owner Bill Furman about a month before Gibbons’ death, the subject of a retrospective at Portland appeared in a conversation with Judy.
âBut it was too late to do it,â said Judy, who noted that Michael had suffered several strokes by then. But it was not too late for a book.
âBill said, ‘let’s do it,’ and he told Michael he would make sure the book happened,â Judy said. “If I hadn’t reminded Bill that Michael always wanted to do a book about his art, it might never have happened.”
The book includes 160 color paintings, as well as articles and memorabilia on the life and art of Gibbons. It comes in two formats: a Premier Edition and a Collector’s Edition.
Judy is satisfied with the book and its “very special touches”. It is hand-bound to open flat, has removable sections, its pages are coated so fingerprints are not visible, and the cover features gold leaf on the Collector’s Edition and gold leaf. money on the Premier edition. The project lasted about 18 months.
âI think Michael would be thrilled,â Judy said, adding that she hopes the book is a way for more people to be able to afford Gibbons art. âI hope the book reaches the larger community of people interested in art, especially Michael’s art. It’s a breathtaking presentation and a real treasure.
The book could also advance the late artist’s long-held goal of bringing more artists and art lovers to Toledo. She praised the Yaquina River Museum of Art, which she founded with Gibbons, for its continued support and for allowing people to donate due to its nonprofit status.
âThe museum plays a major role in continuing its legacy, first with a traveling exhibition of his work, then with a video, and now with the book,â said Judy. âThe tireless dedication of its Board of Directors and volunteers for 19 years has made it all possible. “
When CJ Drake was on his way to his job interview for the post of director of communications and public affairs at the Georgia-Pacific factory in Toledo in July 2015, he came across the “Arts District” sign while entering the city. .
âI didn’t expect to meet this sign, so I turned around and saw the ‘open’ sign at the Michael Gibbons gallery,â he said. Judy and Michael Gibbons were the first people he met in Toledo, and they quickly became good friends.
âThe first time I remember talking to Michael about the possibility of publishing a book about his work was in the summer of 2018,â Drake said. âHe was in his studio finishing a painting for Gunderson Marine, and I looked at all the artwork, and then I saw Michael’s diary, written in his own handwriting. I asked him if he had ever thought of making a book.
“One of the things that struck me about this diary and the typed pages of his unpublished memoirs was the honesty and care with which he chose his words, both in speaking and in writing, âhe said. âAnd that was reflected in his neat and precise handwriting. He chose his words with the same care he chose his painting.
Among the photos in the book is a 1985 painting of the Georgia-Pacific Toledo factory. âMichael wanted Toledo to be known as more than a mill town,â Drake said. âHe was always in search of beauty and his painting made the mill magnificent. He liked to represent industrial scenes in their natural setting. The painting of the mill is the pinnacle.
Drake said the last time he talked about the book with Michael was during the holidays in 2019. âWe had dinner and we celebrated 2020 as the year the book was made,â he recalls. “I remember Michael blessed the idea, and that prompted the rest of us to work on the book.” And Judy said she likes to think that in Michael’s final months he knew the book was coming.
Drake said the book celebrates the life of a wonderful artist who, in one of Gibbons favorite phrases, blossomed right where it was planted.
The content of the two editions of the book is the same. The Collector’s Limited Edition, priced at $ 125, has a gold leaf cover and includes a giclee print of one of Gibbons from England designs, suitable for framing. Free delivery is also included. The cost of the Premier Edition is $ 50, plus $ 10 shipping. A total of 500 copies were printed. Judy said the books were selling quite well and that she was encouraged by the response.
Those interested in purchasing the book can contact Judy Gibbons at 1-541-336-2797, visit the Michael Gibbons Signature Gallery at 140 NE Alder St., Toledo from noon to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday or by email: michaelgibbonsart @ charter.net. The gold leaf edition is available at the gallery; the silver leaf is offered by the sponsor of the Yaquina River Museum of Art at 151 NE Alder St., Toledo, weekends noon to 4 p.m., 1-541-336-1907.