Tokeland artist Jeffro Uitto http://www.jeffrouitto.com/home.html collects his “art supplies” off the beach. He creates life size sculptures of horses, lions, eagles, rhinos and whales, using locally collected driftwood. Each piece of wood, shaped by the elements of tide and time, is used “as found”. Each work is constructed intuitively, somewhat like piecing together a puzzle. It can take years to find the right piece to complete a sculpture. When finished, the works travel far from Tokeland—to art shows, music festivals, galleries and museums across the world.
Recently, Jeffro found a previously unknown work by late Tokeland artist Eugene Landry–and delivered another puzzle piece in Landry’s story.
Jeffro, age 40, grew up here. While he never met Gene, as a child he and other local kids played in Landry’s abandoned geodesic dome.
“It was like a clubhouse,” he said. The dome overlooked a driftwood-strewn beach offering miles of beachcombing treasure.
Last summer, Jeffro was helping neighbors repair their roof when he spotted a Landry print in their garage. “I recognized Gene’s style right away,” he said. His elderly neighbors had bought it years ago at an estate sale; it had been stapled to their garage ever since. He bartered for the print, then carefully removed the rusting staples holding it to the wall. Other than a few small holes, it is in excellent condition.
The scene on left, of weathered boats and female nude, like Venus rising out of the mudflats, is a companion piece to “Brown’s Point”, (1978) on the right.
Landry’s loose, gestural lines interplay with watercolor washes, like soft jazz chords accenting a melody. Landry’s confident style belies the reality of his physical decline. He was steadily loosing control of his only usable hand. Up until the late ’70s, he had painted mostly still lifes and portraits in oils. But, due to the physical exertion of working for prolonged periods on a single oil painting, he began working almost entirely in watercolor. His subject matter also shifted— from his self-described “trademark” bleached cow skull to outdoor scenes. In a 1978 interview, Gene said, “My art has changed. The skull is down there nailed to a tree by the path now. It’s semi-retired…All artists thrive on new experiences.”
Jeffro agrees with Landry: “I think that’s completely true, [about artists thriving on new experiences]. New experiences “bring new ideas, new objects of inspiration.”
Jeffro generously donated the print to the Landry exhibit. Soon it will be framed (staple holes and all) and displayed at the tribal museum. Meanwhile, one wonders: was this part of a series? Are there more lost works out there waiting–like puzzle pieces—to be found?