A passion to create

Earth, Water and Fire to present their work

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Like many women, Marj Casswell returned to a hobby she loved after retiring.

Casswell enjoyed painting when she was young, but put that interest on hold to raise a family and have a career.

Ten years ago, she returned to her artistic roots after working in the credit union industry and then as a consultant for non-profits.

“I decided to scale back my business and work on the other side of my brain,” Casswell, 69, said.

Her medium is acrylic painting, but she doesn’t focus on any one thing in particular.

“I am what you call an experimental painter,” she said. “I don’t focus exclusively on landscapes or people. I experiment.”

This Friday, from 5 to 8 p.m., Casswell and other members of her art critique group, Earth, Water and Fire, will display their paintings for the public as the featured August artists at the Camas Public Library’s Second Story Gallery.

The group includes eight members, all described as “women of a certain age,” but only four will be exhibiting their work in Camas. They include Casswell, Mille Kimery, Cheryl Poole and Roxce Stavney. The women have gathered together for nearly 10 years to delve into the subject of art.

“Let us, whose work is shown on these walls, be a window into the art of Earth, Water, and Fire,” Casswell said.

She added that the name of the group was agreed upon because “Earth” represents pigment, “Water” is used by all the women in their work, and “Fire” represents their burning desire to create.

The four artists, all with ties to the Vancouver area, will be introduced at a free reception on First Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. The art exhibit will continue through Aug. 30 in the gallery, upstairs in the Camas Public Library.

The evening will also include jazz and a reading by nationally recognized poet Scott Poole, who performs weekly on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Live Wire! He is the son of Cheryl Poole.

“It will be fantastic fun,” Casswell said. “He writes the poetry as the show is going on and it reflects the show.”

Kimery calls the Earth, Water and Fire group her “special place” for critique, fellowship and support. She was living in California when she retired and resumed her art but has come back to Vancouver, where she launched her teaching career. Now, she participates in art shows and art associations, aiming with her work “to create feelings of what is not always visually there, but exists from within.”

Poole studied graphic design in college but worked as an elementary school teacher until retiring in 2005.

“My process and mediums have changed,” she said. “I am now intrigued with the interplay of shapes, textures and patterns. Using a mixed media approach, I am now working on how interlocking and free-form shapes can be a springboard for powerful, expressive and abstract design.”

Stavney travels from her retirement home on the Oregon Coast to participate in the Vancouver art critique group. She calls painting her “passion” and uses oil and cold wax applied with a palette knife. She says she looks for poetic patterns in the seasons, observing how nature creates layer upon layer the way she applies layers of color and depth to creates abstract compositions.

Casswell describes the painting experience as filled with “emotional and spiritual freedom.”

“It’s a kind of connection between myself and nature,” she said. “I believe everything is all connected and I feel it when I’m painting in the same way I do when I’m hiking in the woods.”

She and the other group members are looking forward to exhibiting their work. They have had one gallery showing before in Lincoln City, Ore.

“We call ourselves ‘semi-professionals’ because we sell some of our artwork, but also have a passion to create,” Casswell said. “We are looking forward to seeing art hanging on the walls.”

In addition to the artists and Scott Poole, contributing to First Friday in the gallery will be Washougal musician T Walker Anderson. The Battle Ground Jazz Trio is scheduled to perform. After the First Friday reception, Second Story Gallery is open during regular library hours, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.