Capturing the beauty: Silver Falls State Park’s artist in residence

June 2015 Posted in Arts, Culture & History
The work of Silver Falls State Park artist-in-residence Neal “Peace” Yasami is on display at South Lodge. A Father’s Day reception for the artist from 1 - 3 p.m. is open to the public

The work of Silver Falls State Park artist-in-residence Neal “Peace” Yasami is on display at South Lodge. A Father’s Day reception for the artist from 1 – 3 p.m. is open to the public

By Mary Owen

Following in his father’s footsteps, Neal “Peace” Yasami became an artist.

And this Father’s Day, his 19 original oil paintings of Silver Falls will be installed in the South Falls Lodge. A reception and slide presentation at the lodge, in the park’s Historic District, is set for 1 to 3 p.m. June 21 at the lodge. The event is free and open to the public.

An artist-in-resident at the state park, Yasami created all the hand-hewn frames used for the paintings from former park signs. The Eugene-based artist will be working again at Silver Falls State Park in the fall to  complete 10 major works for the Silver Falls Lodge and Conference Center.

A graduate of the University of Hawaii and the Academy of Arts University in San Francisco with a master’s of fine arts, Peace grew up in a house filled with paintings.

“My father was and is an artist,” he said. “As a child, I helped him execute his larger works. I started drawing and painting early. My first oil painting was done at the age of four, not that it was any good. But throughout my schooling, I was always selected for special art classes.”

Peace began college as an engineering student and switched to art after taking the requisite art history and appreciation class.

“My first day of class was a Friday afternoon, and I was exposed to David’s Oath of the Horatii and Gericault’s The Rafts of the Medusa,” he said. “I was blown away. I didn’t know people could paint like that.

“After class, I marched across the campus and slid a paper under my engineering advisor’s door,” he added. “It read, ‘Please switch me to art,’ and I’ve never looked back.”

Although he has traveled around the world, Oregon remained close to his heart. He returned to help his aging mother – and to painting.

“I found though the work I was producing, while good, lacked the romance that comes from an authentic experience with nature,” Peace said. “I’ve been in love with the outdoors all my life. I knew I needed to get out and paint it.”

He decided to see Oregon firsthand by bicycle, transportation that complemented his environmental conscience.

“The next decision was obvious, where to first?” he said. “I had this gut feeling, a strong urging, and perhaps even some precognition that Silver Falls was important. However, I knew nothing about it. I’d been there when I was 7, but, I can’t explain it, I had to go there.”

One experience tripped into another, finally culminating into what he calls “one of the best experiences of my life – a five-month art-in-residency at the park. My ‘Thoreau Moment,’ if you will,” he said.

Peace paints what excites him, which he admits is pretty much anything in nature.

“I love the grand panorama, the radiant glow of a sunset, and raking light,” he said.

Friends of Silver Falls State Park President Lou Nelson said Peace has made a real difference to the artistic perception of the park.

“The difference between a photo of a waterfall, barn or bridge and a painting of it is almost magical,” she said. “A painting can emphasize the more elusive qualities such as a reflection on the water, the shimmer of leaves by a waterfall, or light streaming through a window in an old barn. The display of paintings in the lodge has really impressed visitors with the beauty of all the areas of Silver Falls State Park.”

In addition to creating more paintings for the Silver Falls Conference Center, Peace said he may host a few artist retreats and paint-in-the-park opportunities in the future.

“A 9,000-acre park affords a lot of possibilities,” he said.

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