July 5, 2012

Artist infuses science in paintings

Kevin Raines exhibit opens today at Corscaden Barn Gallery

By ROBIN CAUDELL, Press-Republican

---- — KEENE VALLEY — Take any primordial or compromised wildlands, artist Kevin Raines is there with paint and brushes to capture the natural landscape wherever he may be in the world.

For the last 25 years, he has worked with the Nature Conservancy to identify significant ecosystems.

“We essentially identify remote areas that are being worked on by the Nature Conservancy and ultimately will become sites that are protected,” said Raines, who is a professor of art at Notre Dame of Maryland University and a Wadhams resident.

Several of his paintings are on exhibit in the summer opening of the Corscaden Barn Gallery in Keene Valley. The group exhibition includes photography by Amy Kosh, recent paintings by Joan Dixon, collage by Sandra Leonard, ceramics by Julia Gronski and anthropoliths by Harry Matthews.

Through his association with the Nature Conservancy, Raines has had numerous exhibitions paired with explanatory text of the ecological systems highlighted.

“Right now, I’m looking at a painting called ‘Beaver Meadow Pond.’ It’s an animal-centered ecosystem that was created by animals. It looks the way it looks because of that element. I exhibit work that is intrinsically beautiful. The idea is to make paintings of the extraordinary beauty of nature and infuse some science into the painting,” he said.

Raines has participated in the Summit Stewards program, a collaborative initiative with the conservancy and the Adirondack Mountain Club.

“And I think the DEC,” Raines said. “The Nature Conservancy installed graduate students in environmental studies below the summits of Marcy and Algonquin. They would mount the mountain every morning and greet hikers and explain about the alpine meadows. Hikers trampled the meadows almost to extinction.”

On the mountain summits, hikers were educated about the alpine meadows’ fragility and how walking on rock faces was preferred.

“The meadows came back. In 1991, I painted the denuded mountains and Boot’s Rattlesnake Root. It’s a tiny little plant. The painting I created, it was tucked under an overhanging ledge. The time I made the painting, there were only three known plants: one plant on Algonquin, one on Mary and one on Whiteface. Recently, I’ve gone back to the mountain and made a painting on the same spot. It’s completely changed. In the end, it reveals the success of the conservation efforts,” Raines said.

He’s also worked with the Adirondack Council on the newly established Bob Marshall Wildlands Complex, 410,000 acres in the western corner of the Adirondack Park. He’s creating 40 to 60 oil paintings on sized paper and panel paintings of this tract.

“Essentially what we’re doing is the same kind of thing with pristine wilderness,” he said. “I backpack, kayak or canoe into these areas. I do work on location. Black flies eat me, and I work them into the paintings. My blood and black flies will be in the paintings. Watercolor dries brown, so you don’t have to worry about it. As far as permanency, I’m not sure.”

The paintings will ultimately tour the complex’s gateway communities as well as Saratoga, Albany and New York City.

“They are used as an educational tool. In this series, I’m integrating figures into it. The beauty of the Bob Marshall Wildlands Complex is it’s really a state of the art sustainable stewardship,” he said.

The Adirondack Council seeks input from residents, businesses and scientists.

“My job is to chronicle the wilderness of the existing site and the special ecosystem and also include the people — children, adults, old people — kayaking, canoeing, skiing, fishing, using and blending into the landscape,” Raines said.

Noted Adirondack guide Joe Hackett took him to Slant Rock Camp in the Cranberry Lake area.

“It’s a campsite that Remington loved to camp in,” Raines said. “We’re infusing the history of the area. The whole idea of the paintings is to offer the beauty of the world with a little bit of explanation and bring people in to participate in the stewardship of the land.”

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