CONNECTING TO NATURE THROUGH ART
Imagine you’re in the far North, looking out at a vast white landscape. You smell the sea as the cool breeze stings your cheeks, and get a whiff of fish and seal skin drying on nearby racks.
This was the setting that Amanda Jorgenson, an artist currently stationed in Seattle, grew up in. Her series, “Flora and Fauna” is currently being showcased at Mt. Hood’s Fireplace Gallery in the Student Union.
Growing up, Jorgenson had a keen interest in the arts; her parents even enrolled her in art classes at the early age of 6. However, she did not immediately pursue this interest. Instead, for roughly a decade she worked as a German language instructor at Oregon State University and the University of Oregon.
In 2014 she heard about the yearlong Natural Science Illustration program at the University of Washington. After she applied and was accepted, her journey as an artist continued to evolve. Over the past few years she has created illustrations for children’s books, public art commissions, and private commissions.
Her interest in artwork based around animals partially came from her childhood in Brevig Mission, Alaska, which is a small village with around 300 people.
“The opportunity to have little interference with the indigenous species – even at that age, I knew it was something kind of special,” she explained in an interview. “I knew it was important.”
Six of the paintings being shown here are a part of the “Flora and Fauna” series which contains carnivores and plants indigenous to the Pacific Northwest. The black-and-white pieces shown are detailed pen-and-ink drawings of birds.
Of the pieces students and faculty get to see, the pieces titled “Grizzly Bear with Fiddle Head Fern” and “Burrowed Owl” are the artist’s favorite, the bear being the first created in the Flora and Fauna series. The owl is treasured due to it’s “bad-ass” persona, she said.
Jorgenson’s journey back to the arts was an unexpected one. At times being a full-time illustrator can be stressful, since there can be high- and low-points for commissions. But, one day this past April, she was going through a box of old papers in her parents’ house in Gresham. To her surprise, she found a letter her second-grade-self wrote to her future self, stating that she wanted to be an artist and paint pictures of animals for people.
This reassured Jorgenson that everything would be all right.
“I totally deviated from that goal, but I kind of came around to it,” she said. “So, for those people who really want to pursue art and be an artist, don’t be afraid of doing it. I mean, ultimately you’re gonna come back to it, I think.”
To anyone interested in pursuing art, she suggested, “Always stay true to what you enjoy doing and what inspires you. You can find your niche; you can find people who are interested in your art. It’s not impossible. You just need to find them.
“Don’t be afraid to put in the legwork to find your people.”
Visitors can check out Jorgenson’s “Flora and Fauna” series and the other pieces in the Fireplace Gallery through in the Student Union through Oct. 30. The gallery is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays.