Words to paint by:

Wetlands Painting Exhibition - call to artists

Call to Artists

You are invited to send preliminary images for curatorial selection culminating in the exhibition “Wetlands” scheduled for January – March 2009 at the Grays Harbor College Spellman Library Gallery and subsequently traveling to the White Sturgeon Art gallery of the water resources Education Center in Vancouver, WA: work in any media expressing your direct experience of wetlands ecosystems. There is time for artists to engage in a full round of seasons at wetlands locations.

GHC will produce a website documenting the show and the issues raised by images and speakers. Here is the link to the site documenting last winter’s “Stumps and Clearcuts” exhibition at Grays Harbor College last year: http://www.ghc.edu/library/archives/2007Winter/main.htm

Our objective is to present wetlands in striking visual terms that reveal and interpret these special ecosystems. As you can see below, the prevailing language about wetlands very quickly tends to grow political, bureaucratic, or scientific/ technical. As artists, let us collectively re-open peoples’ eyes to some of the realities behind this language. Artists are uniquely able to attend to both characteristic and particular spaces in ways that are at once compelling and accessible; colors, textures, flora and fauna (especially birds) as well as our reactions to them.

Please respond to me by post or e-mail with wetland images already extant that you might like to be considered for this exhibition - or state your interest if you plan to make new ones over the next year.

I welcome jpeg samples of your wetlands work as you do them. Please bear in mind that this is an invitation to submit work for consideration. I am not able to promise inclusion into the show at this time. The full range of images collectively addressing esthetic diversity, expressive strength, close observation, outstanding craft and skill level, depth of experience, variety of media, unusual points of view and a range of subject matter encompassing the diversity of wetlands definitions and characteristics will not be assembled before October/November 2008. Final selection may comprise as many as seventy or eighty images by twenty or more artists. Please feel free to encourage other artists who might be interested in this project to get in touch with Erik Sandgren at esandgre@ghc.edu or 360-538-4176 or by post addressed to Art Department, Grays Harbor College, 1620 Edward P. Smith Drive, Aberdeen, WA 98520

The “Wetlands” exhibition itself, a correlated slate of speakers at the college during January, February and March of 2009, and the resultant website will again be a grass- roots, low-budget, student realized project with potentially significant community impact. One immediate result may be the incentive it creates for artists to further explore these ecologically and economically significant, muddy, hard to reach, beautiful, contentious, and easily overlooked places.

Your response to this invitation will help keep you in the loop. Further information will be forthcoming about dates and deadlines, transporting work, insurance, keeping a journal of your wetland experiences as a way of fleshing out your artist statements. Feel free to spread the word to other painters printmakers, sculptors, mixed media artists and photographers.

Try Google-ing Washington Wetland Images for clues to compelling imagery and ideas about places where you can productively engage in your own unique interpretive processes. The following excerpts from web definitions and links may be stimulating to you and help set parameters for the ecosystems and sites you choose to observe.

Wetlands are lowland areas, such as marshes or swamps, that are saturated with moisture, especially when regarded as natural habitats of wildlife. The term "wetlands" includes a variety of transitional areas where land based and water based ecosystems overlap. They have long been known to us by more traditional terms such as bog, marsh, fen and swamp. Most people use these terms interchangeably but for many who study wetlands these terms have specific meanings which richly describe the various wetland environments they represent. One of the earliest of the currently important definitions, often referred to as the Circular 39 definition, was developed by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of a wetland classification system for categorizing waterfowl habitat. This classification is still used to differentiate between various wetland types for wildlife habitat purposes

The term refers to lowlands covered with shallow and sometimes temporary or intermittent waters. They are also referred to as bogs, wet meadows, potholes, sloughs, fens and river overflow lands. Shallow lakes and ponds, usually with emergent vegetation as a conspicuous feature, are included in the definition, but the permanent waters of streams, reservoirs, and portions of lakes too deep for emergent vegetation are not included. Neither are water areas that are so temporary as to have little or no effect on the development of moist-soil vegetation.

Wetlands are areas inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions.

Wetlands are transitional between terrestrial and aquatic systems where the water table is usually at or near the surface or the land is covered by shallow water... wetlands must have one or more of the following three attributes: (1) at least periodically, the land supports predominantly hydrophytes; (2) the substrate is predominantly undrained hydric soil; and (3) the substrate is nonsoil and is saturated with water or covered by shallow water at some time during, the growing season of each year.

Wetlands in drylands are more diverse in their composition, depending on the local climate and other particularities of the surroundings. They can be fresh or saline, permanent, seasonal or temporary, filling intermittently or regularly. Wetlands in drylands can be attributed all values and uses of wetlands found in other biomes. However, given the stark contrast to their dry surroundings, many of these values are enhanced

The United States Army Corps of Engineers and the United States Environmental Protection Agency jointly define wetlands as: Those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions.


Forested Wetland Information


Ridgefield National Wildlife Complex – near Vancouver, WA


Klamath Lake


Chehalis Watershed


Wetlands Digital Mapping Across the US


Iowa Wetland Research Information


Washington Department of Wetland Ecology and Mitigation home page (SEA)


US Army Corps and Engineers wetlands projects


Grays Harbor Wetlands


Malheur Refuge – central OR


Finley Refuge – south of Corvallis, OR


California Wetlands



One of the daily reviews at the coast.

Plein Air

Plein Air
From our paintiout in July