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Local artist recreates history

Brightwood artist paints Oregon Trail, Nez Perce Indians, Lewis and Clark

Roger Cooke is not a beginning artist. Far from it - he has been painting for more than 40 years, including the 1993 mural on the east side of the Ace Hardware building in Sandy.

A new exhibit of his work will hang in the Sandy Area Chamber of Commerce office throughout October.

Cooke's deep-seated interest in American history inspires his art, and he has created images mainly of travels on the Oregon Trail, Lewis and Clark expeditions and Northwest Indian tribes.

He gives credit to his grandfather's stories for the motivation to study American history and create historical images.

'My grandfather was always telling stories about the Oregon Trail and the Nez Perce Indians,' Cooke said. 'That's what started my imagination. I just found his stories fascinating, and history came alive for me when I read the historical diaries. There's a lot of excitement, emotion and drama.'

But he also does landscapes, particularly of the Northwest. Over his career, he can boast more than 50 murals painted (some as far away as Florida) and hundreds of paintings.

He comes by his interest naturally because the historic Barlow Road, built in 1846 by Sam Barlow and Philip Foster, traverses across his tree-covered land, just a few yards from his home and studio near Brightwood.

He also has visited the sites he paints, taking photos of various objects, landscapes and people, which he combines in his paintings to create images that tell stories without words.

Cooke, who paints mainly in oil but uses some other media, hasn't exhibited his work in Portland-area galleries until now - he hangs images in the Sandy chamber office next weekend.

Current exhibits are in galleries in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and Scottsdale, Ariz.

Painting isn't something that was ingrained in Cooke from his childhood, although drawing what he has seen was an interest of his youth.

During those youthful years, he developed his interest in creating images, finally pursuing classes at Portland State University, followed with professional training and graduation from the prestigious Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif.

Cooke's historically-accurate images will be on view throughout the month.

The chamber office, at 38963 Pioneer Blvd., is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and can be reached by calling 503-668-4006.

For more information, call Cooke at 503-622-4228 or visit rogercooke.com.