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California artist wins inaugural Friends of the Columbia Gorge award

GOLDENDALE — A California woman was the inaugural winner of the Friends of the Columbia Gorge ribbon at the opening reception of the 14th annual Pacific Northwest Plein Air in the Columbia Gorge at the Maryhill Museum of Art on Saturday.

Lilli-anne Price’s winning acrylic painting, “Bingen Skyline,” of the Hood River and Bingen skyline at sunset, was one of several Gorge plein air paintings recognized by Maryhill and partner organizations at the reception. Elo Wobig of Portland was named runner-up for her oil painting “Shoulders of the Columbia River,” of the view from the Cape Horn Lookout.

The Maryhill Museum of Art has organized and hosted the plein air competition since 2016.

The paintings by Price and Wobig were selected from more than 160 entries by a special friends staff team as best illustrating and celebrating the natural beauty and sense of wonder of the Columbia Gorge. For her winning painting, Price, of Salinas, Calif., received a one-year Friends gift membership and a $250 cash prize. Wobig received a one-year gift membership and a book of Gorge photography.

“It was hard picking from so many great paintings, but the colors Lilli-anne captured of the sun setting in the Gorge just leaped off the canvas,” said Kate Lindberg, outdoor programs coordinator.

Seeking to deepen and celebrate the connection between art and nature in the Gorge, Hood River, Ore., artist Cathleen Rehfeld launched the first Pacific Northwest plein air gathering and competition in 2006. The annual event draws on a long tradition of painting in the open air, attracting some of the finest painters from across the country to capture the Gorge’s stunning light and inspiring vistas.

To paint en plein air means to paint outdoors, coping with heat, cold and other elements. Guest jurors awarded several prizes for best sky, mountain, water and more.

“The Gorge is just an amazing mother lode of a landscape for artists,” said Price. “The day before the paint-off started, my husband and I were riding our bikes around the White Salmon area to scope out potential scenes. As we made our way around, we stopped for a rest in the parking lot of Skyline hospital, and I knew instantly — there it is, this is where I want to paint.”

Wobig has loved drawing and painting since childhood. “I always carry my sketchbook and water pen, in case something captures my eye. Living in the Portland area, I find inspiration everywhere, and the view from the Cape Horn Overlook along Highway 14 just took my breath away.”

Paintings from the event will remain on view and available for purchase at Maryhill until Aug. 24. Proceeds support the Maryhill Museum of Art.

Reach Tammy Ayer at or on Facebook.

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