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A spring canvas

Art exhibit showcases blooms of Wy'East artists

Spring has sprung in Sandy, and not only outdoors.

The Wy’East Artisans Guild will hold its “All the Pretty Flowers” show from April 1-24 at the Sandy Actors Theatre. The exhibit kicks off at 6:45 p.m. on Thursday, March 31, with an opening reception that ties into a dress rehearsal of the theatre’s current production of “Steel Magnolias.”

The show highlights the work of 11 Wy’East members, including Sandy residents Becky Hawley and Rod Stroh. Hawley is primarily a painter, and Stroh is the only photographer who is a member of the nonprofit guild. Hawley is exhibiting an acrylic work titled “In Harmony,” and Stroh has two pieces in the show, “Camellia” and “Lily in Black and White.”

Hawley recently attended a cancer retreat at the Harmony Hill in Union, Wash. The event inspired her work.

“We were all brought there by the ‘Big C,’ so you can see the ‘C’ by the side of the hill,” Hawley said of her work. “The ‘C’ stands for the road that brought us all there. And then each of the people in our group is represented by an element in the painting.”

Among those elements are a bright sun, a shiny brown stone, calm blue waters and a lotus flower that is just beginning to open. These all signify other cancer patients who participated in the retreat with her.

“This was done in a graphic style to represent the mosaic and collage effect of us all coming together with our separate experiences,” she said.

And, of course, there is the lush green grass that underpins all of the elements, which Hawley playfully describes as a reference to her husband. If it weren’t for Stroh and his willingness to mow to their lawn, she said she would completely disappear into the tall, leafy blades.

But in seriousness, the couple often works together on their art.

Stroh turned to photography after retiring in 2005 from a career as a commercial handyman. Sometimes Hawley draws inspiration from her husband’s photos, and paints what he has captured. Other times, she paints a still life, and Stroh will photograph it to use in his own works.

“Being married to an artist, there’s a lot of pressure to be artistic,” Stroh said, smiling. “I decided to paint with pixels instead.”

Looking to set himself apart as a photographer, he began to explore opportunities to make his works unique. Nature photography is increasingly popular, but Stroh said he likes to stand out.

“There are so many people doing it that you’re not really noticed,” he said. “I wanted to create another style.”

One way proved to be using computer programs such as Photoshop and Lightroom to manipulate the original image, sometimes combining multiple images, as he did in a work called “Mountain Spirit.”

The piece shows an image of a wine glass, and before it is a Stroh’s image of Trillium Lake on Mount Hood. Inside the bowl of the glass is Hawley’s painting “Earth Mother,” which shows the subtle form of a woman in the shape of a tree.

His works have garnered accolades from his fellow artists, including a nod in 2015 for the best small size monochrome photo of the year from the Columbia Council of Camera Clubs. In 2013, Outdoor Photographer magazine published Stroh’s photo of Glacier National Park.

For the Wy’East show, Stroh selected two floral photos. Camellia is a monochromatic work with a touch of pale color, while “Lily in Black and White” is a striking black-and-white floral image. He photographed the camellia while attending the Harmony Hill retreat with Hawley, and snapped the lily in a friend’s yard.

While other works in the show might burst with spring colors, Stroh sought a more subdued palette.

“He wanted something to contrast with the colorful array of art that we will have,” Hawley said.