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The Art of Ag: Nampa AgriCULTURE Exhibition Spotlights Idaho's Farm and Ranch Roots

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It can sometimes be hard to remember that farms and ranches used to fill the space where buildings now stand in Boise's constantly gyrating urban core. Just 30 minutes down the road in Nampa, however, Idaho's ag connection is much clearer—and still thriving. A new art exhibit at the Nampa Civic Center, dubbed AgriCULTURE: Influenced by the Land, is a visual reminder of the Gem State's roots as interpreted by more than 30 artists from the Nampa Art Collective.

The exhibition is a humble one at first glance, lining just a single hallway. But like a field of sugar beets or mustard greens, a closer look reveals hidden complexity. Some works, like Leslie Jay Bosch's bright acrylic-and-paper collages of gem-like hot air balloons floating across farm fields, celebrate Idaho's agricultural aesthetic. Others, like Joan Thomas' earth-toned oil paintings of historic ag structures, including a disused barn and the Meridian Mill, are more personal.

LEX NELSON
  • Lex Nelson

In her artist statement for Miller's Barn Revisited, Thomas wrote, "This barn is a fading but still-standing East Boise landmark. I obtained permission from the barn's owners to paint it plein air. In the process the family became friends, and I have been privileged to hear ranching and farming stories from many years ago as well as recent colorful stories of caring for their land and cattle."

Most of the works are two-dimensional: Oil paintings, watercolors and pen-and-ink drawings abound, but their subject matter runs the gamut from a stylized picket-fence scene inspired by the garden in Peter Rabbit to a vibrant photograph of yellow canola blossoms. Of course, there are also many landscapes, often featuring tractors or farmers with truckloads of produce. Angela Stout, board president of the Treasure Valley Artists' Alliance (the umbrella under which the NAC falls), said the diversity of perspectives and media is perhaps the best of what AgriCULTURE has to offer.

"Blossoms" by Angela Stout. - LEX NELSON
  • Lex Nelson
  • "Blossoms" by Angela Stout.

"It's a really good example of our eclectic membership," said Stout, "We had so many different styles, and they all took their different perspectives on the same topic ... It's a really wide example of the art that we have in the city."

Stout's own contribution to the exhibition, a mixed-media piece called Blossoms made with sculpted cloth, was inspired by Idaho's scenic groves of fruit trees.

In addition to the pieces lining the hall, a glassed-in display case houses the work of featured artist Robin Cox, as well as three-dimensional pieces made from fiber, copper and even irrigation pipe, the last a nod to Idaho's complex water rights history. Cox works in ballpoint pen and nearly all of her selected pieces focus on horses, which she said are both her favorite animal and an important part of Idaho's ranching heritage. She pointed to the Western Idaho Fair, and events like the Idaho Stampede and Caldwell Night Rodeo, as continuations of that tradition.

"A lot of good cutting horses come from here," Cox said. "It's a lot of money and a lot of income for the people who make that their business."

Cox's meticulous drawings, which feature horses both in repose and mid-run, are perfect examples of how in Idaho, this kind of historic business can also be beautiful. Her work and that of the rest of the NAC artists will hang at the Civic Center through Tuesday, Sept. 11.