PAT NEAL: Portrait of the artist as an exhibitor

THIS IS ABOUT me, as an artist.

As a youth I was impressed with the linear geometry of vertical cedar posts connected with parallel strands of barbed metal wire.

To me it was an intrusive barricade that represented a contrived division of open space and mirrored the boundaries that can rob us of our dreams.

It made me wonder what was on the other side.

I titled this piece of farm sculpture “A Fence.”

In a later work, I split rounds of logs into diamond-shaped pieces, each as different as a snowflake, then crafted them into a horizontal mosaic that bespoke the primeval majesty of an ancient forest.

I called this “The Wood Pile.”

The work received much acclaim before being accidentally burned and destroyed by culturally unenlightened family members who failed to appreciate the work of getting the art out or the art of getting out of work.

I was forced to experiment with other media.

My next bit of art theater was an indoor piece composed of a collection of rectangular bundles of dried grass that I modeled into a monolith held together with gravity that I called “The Hay Stack.”

At some point, I began my stump sculpture period, where I carved a series of stumps from living trees.

Each of the stumps was also different like snowflakes, and in their totality formed my shining masterpiece, “The Clearcut.”

It was only a matter of time before I began painting.

Typically my first canvas was a courageous attempt at a mural of a herd of majestic mountain goats stampeding across Mount Olympus in a blizzard, done entirely in white.

As an artist I create what I feel and feel what I create.

That is why I am pleased to request the pleasure of your company at an exhibition of my photography at the Tyler Street Coffee House in Port Townsend during the first Saturday Art Walk and throughout September.

This first exhibition of my work represents a 35-year retrospective of both black-and-white and color photographs I have taken on the North Olympic Peninsula as a historian or while guiding the rivers of the rain forest.

Some of the photographs have an ethereal mist-shrouded quality.

That is because they were taken in the rain.

Photography in the rain can be a challenge.

Many fine cameras were destroyed in the assembly of this exhibit.

Photographs include:

• 1. “Portrait of a Basset Hound,” was taken in a 1974 Peninsula College photography class with a Kodak Brownie.

Boone was the leader of the pack. I believe the photograph documents the destructive nature of this family pet.

I sure miss him.

• 2. “Upriver.” This is a photograph of my friend, Harry Reed Sr., fording the upper Dungeness River in 1979 while researching historic structures in the rain shadow of the Olympics.

Harry was a walking encyclopedia of the Dungeness.

I sure miss him, too.

• 3. “Stony Point Shelter” is a representative of backcountry shelters built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the last Depression.

• 4. “Mount Olympus,” as seen from Richwine Bar on the Quileute River during a morning thunder storm.

I’m allergic to lightning and it’s nuts to be out on a gravel bar in a lightning storm, but look at those guys standing in the water with the graphite fishing rods.

That’s crazy!

• 5. “Lillian Valley.” Grant Humes, one of the first guides on the Peninsula said the Lillian was the most beautiful river in the Olympics.

There’s no way you could take a bad picture of the Lillian.

That’s the secret to my photography — location, location, location.


Pat Neal is a fishing guide, writer and now a photographic exhibitor who still finds time to write a weekly column appearing Wednesdays.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or [email protected], or visit his blog at

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