Jean Arnold is a professional visual artist residing in Pullman, WA. She has exhibited her artwork in numerous solo and group shows, regionally and nationally. Her work isfound in many public, corporate, and private collections. She was included in a 2021 exhibit at the Missoula Art Museum, EDGE OF THE ABYSS: ARTISTS PICTURING THE BERKELEY PIT. In 2022, Arnold had a two-person show with Ellen Vieth at Moscow Contemporary in Moscow, ID. Arnold earned her MFA in 1999 from Northern Vermont University (previously Johnson State College), in conjunction with the Vermont Studio Center, where she received guidance from numerous artistic luminaries. After graduate school, she worked with the urban landscape (while moving through it via mass transit) for almost a decade. Then, her growing concerns about human impacts on the planet (while also living near one of the largest pit mines in the world in Salt Lake City) led her to work with large-scale mining imagery and the issues of extraction. In her various explorations, Jean Arnold is visually engaged with how humans impact the land.
Her recent series featured in Ground Truths depicts the burned-out town of Malden, WA to bear witness to the destruction unfolding all around us, due to the ravages of global warming and other ecological imbalances.
Malden 2: Gutted acrylic on canvas, 20in x 26in, 2022
"Malden 8: Shreds" ink and gouache on paper, 11in x 14in, 2022
"Malden 1: After the Inferno" acrylic on canvas, 20in x 26in, 2020
"Malden 5: Phase Change" gouache on paper, 12in x 14in, 2022
"Malden 3: Remnants" acrylic on canvas, 20in x 22in, 2020
Within a month after a wildfire destroyed nearly all of the town of Malden, WA in 2020, I journeyed there to document the destruction beginning an artistic project of bearing witness to what is unfolding now in many places all around us. I think a lot about the systemic, “Earth Systems” big-picture – about how humans are altering the very basis of existence, and how this is now affecting our very lives. Many people are experiencing devastating losses, the burned-out town of Malden being a prime example. Increasingly we are confronted with scenes of wreckage, whether from fire, flooding, or storms. This is becoming a part of our experienced landscape, as-it-now-is. I so often take an eagle-eye, distant approach to contemplating humanity’s impact upon the land; rendering these scenes of destruction was sobering and humbling, literally bringing me down to earth to consider the impacts of fires and other destructive forces upon peoples’ lives. I consider this series to be an act of bearing witness to challenging subjects which we want to turn away from, an homage or tribute to those who have suffered. Beauty and horror often intermingle in unexpected ways.
more from Jean's perspective
Steptoe View (study), watercolor on paper, 7in x 10in, 2022
Malden, WA is set in the Palouse Region in the Pacific Northwest. Here, a sweeping scene from nearby Steptoe Butte captures the rolling contoured farmland that is characteristic of the area.
Malden 10: Dissolution, ink and gouache on paper, 14in x 21in, 2023
What was once a beloved home dissolves into chaos and entropy.
Malden 9: Resurgence, oil on canvas, 8in x 10in, 2022
The human impulse to look for signs of hope runs deep. New growth appears to arise from the ashes of complete destruction.
The artist’s studio may look cluttered, but it is organized chaos.
Malden 4: Loss, oil on canvas, 18in x 20in, 2022
How might such a scene of devastation be experienced by those whom have lost everything? The effects of breakdown are captured by the qualities of the paint itself.