Joel Brock, beloved and well known NW Skagit Valley landscape artist, died this past Sunday, October 27 at the age of 52 from complications of a stomach ulcer.
He drew and painted Skagit Valley landscapes for more than two decades: the Samish River, river dikes, the sloughs with sedges, poplars, flat farmland, Cascade Mountain foothills and scenes of Edison. The impressionist landscapes were rendered in pastels and acrylics and the colors were generally muted earth-tones: browns, mid-range greens, and goldens, reflecting the natural world. With one exception: the late afternoon sun-tinged clouds floating in a blue sky. The pink and golden hues on the fringes of his clouds glowed with warmth and color and explored the beautiful, serene atmosphere of the valley skies reflecting earth’s warmth. Many an evening, driving home across the flats, from Burlington to Edison and beyond I have noticed that natural sky and said aloud, “It’s a Joel Brock kind of sky”—because it was. Joel was on to something.
He was a gentle soul, who struggled with declining health– yet he kept painting. Friends from Edison recall they “never heard him raise his voice, ” and spill with accounts of his generosity, particularly in the form of gifts of spontaneous drawings on the back of menus and other found materials.
Some call Brock the preeminent NW landscape artist of his generation. He understood this landscape.
His subjects became edgier in his later years, his images more stark as reflected in his street scenes with boxy white-washed house cubes and the use of cigarette butts and razor blades on canvases with political themes.
After his passing stories keep popping up–about his skills as a dancer and shuffleboard team member at the Edison Inn, his work with children in area schools—encouraging kid’s interest in drawing and painting, his artistic connections with young artists in the community whom he mentored.
He lived his last year in a small studio house in Edison, the former home of another regionally known artist, John Simon. A house made for painting and art in the midst of a small burg of a community called Edison. Where everybody who’s anybody knows everybody.
A tribute to Joel aired on KSVR fm, the Community Radio Station in Mt. Vernon, Washington. Interviews with community artists Michelle Scuimbato and Jessica Bonin, friend Dave Swanson and art dealer Lisa Harris reflect on his life and work. The link is:
He was represented by the Lisa Harris Gallery in Seattle, and the diversity of his work can be seen in the following link:
He is survived by his former wife and two daughters and many grieving friends.
A show entitled Retrospective: The Art of Joel Brock opens Friday at the Skagit County Historical Museum, 501 S 4th Street, La Conner, WA. It runs from Nov 1-10th , with hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 11-5 PM. On-loan work–offered by local collectors–forms the core of the show, a show which was on the Museum’s calendar, but originally intended to feature new works by Brock.
A memorial gathering was held in Edison on Sunday, November 3rd, at the Edison Eye Gallery. The generous crowd spilled out into the main downtown street so all could hear poems, drumming, songs and other tributes from friends and family. It was a moment.
Category: Indie It Art, Film & Theatre