In December and January, Lebanon Picture Frame & Fine Art Gallery (LPF) is presenting an exhibition of two distinguished plein air oil painters: Julie Riker and Steve Wetzel. Following the approach of painting in the open air advocated by the French Impressionists, the pair captures the natural beauty of the light and shadow of Central PA and beyond with their own distinctive styles. In observance of the recent social distancing guidelines and to help curb the spread of COVID-19, LPF will not be hosting a live artist’s reception. The exhibition will be available to view via LPF’s Facebook Page beginning at 5pm on Friday, December 4, 2020. The artist’s latest work can also be viewed in person during the months of December and January until Saturday, January 30, 2021. To view the works in person, the gallery is open during its normal operating hours.
Camp Hill artist Julie Riker works as a professional artist and operates her own decorative painting business. For over twenty years, Riker has provided antique restoration, custom murals and faux finishes for many homes, churches, and businesses. Riker studied illustration with an emphasis on academic drawing at University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA, where she completed an MFA in Illustration. After graduation, Riker embarked on her artistic career as a part of the PA State Capitol restoration project. The artist calls herself an “observational painter,” as she primarily paints on location and often travels to “scope out” new areas for inspiration. “I have always found inspiration from travel – specifically painting trips with other artists,” Riker remarked, “2020 has kept me in my hometown looking for new inspiration. What I am finding is that there is inspiration everywhere.” She is influenced by painters like Sargent, Sorolla and Zorn, “who can capture a light effect using an economy of brushstrokes,” as well as works by Andrew Wyeth, known for their mood and compositions, and Richard Diebenkorn and his abstract paintings based on representational subjects. Even though Riker’s paintings could be perceived by the viewer as representational, she is more interested in the abstract structure of a composition and not the subject matter itself. Riker has received many accolades throughout her career as an artist and participated in many Plein Air competitions.
Plein air landscape painter Steve Wetzel was born and raised near the Susquehanna River, where the river, as well as its surrounding farmland, meadows and acres of woodland continue to serve as a continual source of inspiration. “The river was visible from my high school parking lot, elevated on a hillside, where we looked down into the valley to sketch the river as it flowed past the bend at Turkey Hill and meandered toward the Chesapeake Bay,” said Wetzel. “These vistas, this scenery, filled me with a deep love of nature, and this is where I always return…to the landscape.” For more than half a century, the Susquehanna continues to be a deeply loved and frequent subject of his paintings. Wetzel utilizes oil as his primary medium and paints in a representational style. He works mostly on rigid surfaces as opposed to traditional stretched canvas in order to accommodate his use of the palette knife; a number of these palette knife paintings will be featured in this exhibition. Among his many achievements, some notable exhibitions include Art of the State at the Pennsylvania State Museum, Philadelphia Sketch Club Exhibition of small oil paintings, The Pennsylvania Governor’s Residence, the Pennsylvania State Museum and many others.