By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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“FROM THE LAND of Ghosts & Shadows,” an exhibition by Irish painter Josie Gray, is open at the PUB Gallery of Art at Peninsula College, 1502 E. Lauridsen Blvd., through March 14. Admission is free to the gallery, in the college's J building, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.
A free program, “An Irish Painter in Paint, Film, Story and Poetry,” is open to the public at 12:35 p.m. Thursday, March 6, in the Little Theater at Peninsula College. After the 50-minute presentation by artist Josie Gray and poet Tess Gallagher, a free public reception will be held in the adjacent PUB Gallery.
For more information about these and other public activities on campus, see www.PenCol.edu or visit Peninsula College's page on Facebook.
Peninsula Daily News
Tess Gallagher, heartsick about her country's involvement in Vietnam, boarded a plane to England, where she found a job selling programs at London's theaters.
It was 1969, and she became friends with Dymphna Gray, a co-worker from the northwest of Ireland.
Gallagher and Gray would keep in touch through the decades. Gallagher traveled to Ireland to write her first book of poems and to meet Gray's family, who lived beside county Sligo's Lough Arrow.
Gallagher, who still lives in Port Angeles, became well-known as a poet, professor and the wife of famed writer Raymond Carver.
A few years after Carver's death, Gallagher went back to Ireland, where she became acquainted with Dymphna Gray's brother, Josie. He, too, was widowed, having lost his wife, Madge, with whom he'd raised eight children, some years earlier.
Tess and Josie, as they're known, would share stories and go fishing on Lough Arrow.
“He had such a keen eye for every little thing . . . for how the weather moved, the clouds and the light,” Tess remembered in a recent interview.
Near Lough Arrow, Tess found a cottage to stay in during part of the year. And she invited Josie to her home in Port Angeles, where he would discover, at age 69, a talent he'd not dreamt of.
Tess likes having colors, as in paint, around the house, along with brushes, palettes and paper. One day in 1994, she invited Josie to use them.
Josie has done a lot of things: run a butcher shop, worked in a pub, drove a bulldozer. He has not been to an art class, and before he met Tess, he hadn't visited an art museum.
Yet one day, Josie began to paint. In rose and gold, aquamarine and silver, he laid down views of the sky over Ireland. He painted the bodies of water, the trees, the sun and moon.
“Jesus, this is coming alive,” he remembers thinking as he filled his canvases.
Josie has become a prolific artist, one who has sold his work to collectors and publishers who wanted his work to become book-cover art.
And by chance one day last year, an art professor and gallery curator caught sight of the Irishman's paintings. Michael Paul Miller of Peninsula College, visiting Gallagher's home, saw some hanging on the wall and some propped up on the floor and asked: “Who did these?”
Josie Gray, my companion, she replied.
“There's more downstairs,” Gallagher added, “so he went down there and dug about.”
This digging has resulted in the current show at the college's PUB Gallery, an exhibition of 45 original paintings and several book covers bearing Josie's art.
The painter himself has titled it “From the Land of Ghosts & Shadows.”
“They are visual poetry,” Miller said of Josie's images. The paintings are mysterious, yet filled with emotion — “instantly accessible,” he added.
“In [Josie's] work color, form, and feeling are one,” said Miller.
The artist himself doesn't go on about himself or his work. Tess, however, points out that Josie has continued to paint later in life and continued to develop as an artist after suffering a stroke several years ago.
“He knows what the battle is about,” she said. “This is the comeback kid here.”
After the stroke, Tess and Josie stuck close to his home. And in the studio at her cottage, Tess set up something called the Ballindoon Cafe, where they could relax, have tea, and when the sun emerged, bring a table and chairs out to the courtyard.
The pair will talk about their art and life — and show a short film, “Scenes from the Ballindoon Cafe,” in a free Studium Generale presentation this Thursday, March 6, at Peninsula College.
Their program, titled “An Irish Painter in Paint, Film, Story and Poetry,” will start at 12:35 p.m. in the Little Theater, and at about 1:30 p.m. Tess and Josie will come out to the adjacent PUB Gallery for a reception. Both events are free to the public.
This art exhibition, something Josie never thought he'd have, comes shortly before his 89th birthday. Many of the paintings came after the stroke, Tess noted.
“He's a man who's made the choice to live,” she said.
“You just keep your eye on living, on what stimulates your life.”
There have been times, of course, when a painting wasn't going well. In one case, Tess said something like “Why don't you start over?”
To which Josie replied, “I'm going to bring this around.”
“And darned if he didn't do it,” said Tess. “It's a good thing he didn't listen to me.”
“The good thing about painting,” Josie added, “is if you don't like something I did, maybe she [Tess] will.”