Saving History with a Palette Knife

I wrote about Terry d. Chacon's art exhibit in Banning.
The plein-air artist (pictured at left, with Clidine Roper of Banning Center for the Arts) often paints historic landscapes, such as citrus groves near her home in Redlands, before they are bulldozed to make way for construction.
There's a poignant story inside this story about her painting San Gorgonio Inn before it was demolished.

Saving History With a Palette Knife

Artist Terry d. Chacon paints on location, preserving the history of Southern California's ever-changing landscapes

Terry d. Chacon paints outdoors, on location. She races time and weather as a day moves forward and light changes quickly. When she’s finished layering on oils with her palette knife, her painting has captured a moment in time.

The Redlands resident also captures history, as shown in her exhibit, “Expressions of Color and Light,” which opened this week at . Chacon’s paintings often record historic Southern California landscapes and buildings before they make way for new developments and disappear.

On display in Banning, for example, are two paintings of the San Gorgonio Inn. The artist came to Banning last year to paint the Inn. Chacon was saddened that the historic structure was going to be demolished and wanted to save its history in her artwork.

She painted a 6-by-6-inch oil of the Inn’s roadside Googie-style sign. And she painted a 5-by-7-inch view of the Inn’s back door, with its tall palm trees and view of snow-capped San Jacinto Peak.

Chacon remembered Saturday at a reception at the Center for the Arts that while she was sadly painting the Inn, a man in red began recording her with a video camera. It was Bud Mathewson, a Banning icon who died last month at age 88. While she was recording history in her way, he was doing the same. 

He also gently teased her, Chacon recalled, because as she was painting the back of the Inn, she kept pacing backward to get a better overall view of her painting. “He told me I was going to wear a hole in the pavement. And, he captured it all on video,” she said. 

Painting “en plein air,” a French term for “in the open air,” is challenging because the light and color don’t wait for an artist to finish. The oil paintings usually are small because it’s all about speed. “It’s all about capturing a timeline,” Chacon said.  Chacon, one of the co-founders of Plein-Air Artists of Riverside, paints at different locations weekly.

Chacon also is an accomplished sculptor. She is well-known for her portraits of animals, especially dogs. She has owned, loved, and showed Afghan hounds for about 35 years.

“Expressions of Color and Light”  is open through July 14 at the Center for the Arts, 130 N. San Gorgonio Rd. in Banning. Also on view are works by the late Milford Zornes, the late Jolene Biss, David Fairrington, David Valenzuela and Carson Gladson. Information: (951) 849-3993.


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