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Landscape paintings can be seen displayed on walls everywhere throughout the Northwest, because the area is so beautiful and diverse.

But The Arts Center in Corvallis wanted to put a different twist on the landscape painting: So the committee behind a new exhibit at the center worked to seek out artists who would bring new interpretations to an old concept.

"We wanted to find a slightly different approach to the idea of working as an artist with your environment," says curator Hester Coucke.

So the committee members selected the works of Oregon artists Jill Baker, Nancy Helmsworth and Rebecca Mannheimer for "Where Are We? Contemporary Interpretations of Landscape Art." The exhibit, which features landscape paintings, photography, video and mixed media, will be on display through Feb. 1 at The Arts Center.

The three artist's styles are very different from each other. And, Coucke said, the work is very different from what people would call traditional landscape painting.

"These artists have gone a step further than that," she said.

Helmsworth, a Portland artist, uses a square format with a central image for her landscape paintings. The central images are based on her photographic collection.

The surrounding surface of the paintings is divided into different plains or fields.

"She has these bits of landscapes surrounded by something entirely different, which gives you a different interpretation of what a landscape is about. And in a very strange way it makes that landscape even more important, because you have to think harder," Coucke said.

Mannheimer, of Eugene, has a much looser and more abstract style of painting than Helmsworth, Coucke said.

"She abstracts her landscapes and imagery so much that you have to fill in what it is about yourself. You say, 'This could be a tree, but it also could be an oblong shape on a stick,'" Coucke said.

Corvallis artist Baker's artwork is further removed from what viewers identify as traditional landscape painting or drawing, Coucke said.

"Her work is really quite conceptual and has more to do with the experience than with the reproduction of the landscape," Coucke said. "She's really thinking about the time that she had there."

Baker focuses on desert-like landscapes that she visited and videotaped. She has also painted and drawn on some still photography from those videos.

"You will see photographs of very close-up ground, dirt and stones that she then has embellished," Coucke said.

Baker and Helmsworth share a common concentration on deserts in Eastern Oregon in their work, while Mannheimer's paintings are mainly based in the Willamette Valley.

The three artists will discuss the exhibit during a reception, Brown Bag Art Talk, and a Corvallis Arts Walk event in January.

Coucke hopes the exhibit will help widen viewers' horizons when it comes to how they see the natural world.

"What I hope is that people will be given opportunities and tools in a way to experience landscape around Corvallis with an open mind as these artists have done," she said.

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