About five years ago, Sue Bradley bought a group of 10 paintings from Ric Gendron.
“It is a really wonderful set, it is basically Ric working at the height of his powers,” said Bradley, the Spokane Art School board president.
The acrylics, called “Salish Stories,” draw on the Salish storytelling tradition.
“They’re more lighthearted and whimsical than most of his stuff,” Bradley said. They use bright colors and animal imagery – one features a man wearing a rhinoceros mask, another is reminiscent of “Alice in Wonderland.”
“It’s pretty much my favorite group of paintings he’s ever done,” she said.
Now those paintings are getting their first public showing as part of Saturate, a citywide effort to highlight works by artists of color. They will be on display at the Spokane Art School gallery through March 31.
“They are just so special, I just kind of stashed them until we could figure out what to do with them,” Bradley said.
The paintings look like illustrations for a children’s book, she said. And as Gendron painted, his grandchildren were sitting around him, telling stories about what they thought he was painting. No one wrote down their stories, but now a new group of children will have the chance to write their own.
Gendron and Spokane Art School will be working with students from the Salish School, the nonprofit immersion school that works to preserve the Salish language. The students will write stories in Salish for Gendron’s works, and will also write and paint their own stories.
Gallery visitors will also get to help with the storytelling. Gendron never titled the paintings, so people will be asked to write their own.
Also on display are about 20 new works. The paintings are typical Gendron, with a mix of Native American images, music and birds, Bradley said.
“It’s just classic Ric,” she said, adding “these come from the jolly side of his spectrum.”
One has a woman in profile, her hair covered in flowers, with a stylized sky and ground behind her. It calls to mind creation stories, the earth goddess and Nefretiti, Bradley said.
“His pieces are calling up all different kinds of images, in reference to different myths and stories and histories, and they’re all woven together.”
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