If we were to contemporize the old English rhyme naming four good-luck items a bride includes in her wedding outfit, it might look like this:
“Something new, something new, something borrowed, something blue,” because in today’s highly materialistic, advertising-saturated society, old things are passé.
They’re outdated, outmoded, unfashionable and perhaps worst of all, non-trendy.
In a throwaway world, that’s what we do: we throw things away.
But not everyone falls for this siren call of corporate-driven profit mentality.
Some people, like Walla Walla artist Randy Klassen, see value in things beyond their shiny newness.
He sees value in old things for the simple reason that they are old:
“The older I get, the more intrigued I become with the concept of ‘old.’ It speaks of history,” Klassen says, explaining why, in an Art Event showcasing his work at Wenaha Gallery, he chose to focus on rusty, abandoned pick-up trucks falling apart in landscapes ranging from forest paths to overgrown fields.
“Every old truck has a history of service. It transported all kinds of material from its base to where it was needed: agricultural products, machinery, lumber, and all kinds of items.
“How many miles did it travel? How difficult were some of the roads? Did the kids love their dad’s truck (or was it their mom’s)?
“What caused some of those dents? How come some vehicles are still in fairly good shape? Add colors and shapes to history and you can see why the subject of old trucks impressed me.”
Such musings are not unusual for Klassen, who incorporates into his artwork serious metaphysical thought springing from a 45-year career in Christian ministry.
The value of a thing, a place, or a person far transcends its surface appeal, and one must be willing to look deeper to find meaning, worth, significance and dignity.
These elements are important to Klassen and regardless of the subject matter of his next watercolor work, he goes beyond cursory depth.
Klassen likes to work with themes, exploring a particular subject deeply and thoroughly before moving on to the next.
One time, it was a series of old barns in Walla Walla County; another time he focused on buildings in Bodie, a 19th century, former gold-mining ghost town in California.
Then there was a series on coastal works, and another one on the Blue Mountains.
“If any statement comes from my art, it is that beauty is God’s gift to enrich our lives,” Klassen says.
“This is seen best in flowers, sunsets, and mountains, but even the rusting colors of old trucks can brings a smile, which is what I hope will happen in my Art Event at Wenaha.”
Klassen and wife Joyce are painters, working out of a studio crafted from what used to be the TV/sitting room of their home.
And while Joyce focuses on abstracts, Klassen prefers representational work, something embarked upon as a child when he learned under his father, Russian emigré and Canadian painter Jacob Frank Klassen.
“My dad took me sketching with him when I was a little guy, so I learned early.”
Klassen’s work has found its way around the world, with collectors in Canada; California (the New College in Berkeley); Chicago, (Swedish Covenant Hospital); and the Boijhing Gallery in China, among other venues.
He has entered and won awards in numerous art shows, but the two most memorable are first place at the San Francisco Embarcadero Show and a first in Palm Springs where a poster was printed of his winning painting.
“I have lots of ribbons to play with.”
Klassen is adamant that the materials he uses to create his paintings are long lasting and there for the long haul.
He chooses 300-pound acid-free watercolor paper for its durability and Windsor-Newton paints for their longevity and resistance to fading.
He wants his work to be around for a long, long time, to the point that someday, it will be considered old.
Because old is beautiful. And beauty is worth painting.
“I thank God for the gift to paint.
“I enjoy painting, and if my painting can bring joy to another, then two of us are happy.
“Can’t lose with that.”