Reviving the “Lost” Art of Eugene Landry

Reviving the “Lost” Art of Eugene Landry

Thirty years after his death, a resilient Shoalwater Bay tribal artist has an exhibit in Astoria side by side with young tribal artists inspired by his example.
by Mike Francis
(originally published in HipFish Monthly, reprinted November 22 by Oregon Arts Watch online.)

 

Why are Eugene Landry’s paintings getting their first exhibition outside his southwest Washington hometown in 50 years, more than three decades after he died?

Landry was a gifted painter in oils and watercolors, and his story of creative persistence against enormous physical challenges would be compelling enough on its own. But the fact that the paintings were produced by a partly paralyzed artist living on a neglected reservation of Indigenous people, at a time when tribes like his fought merely for the right to have their existence recognized, makes the show at Astoria Visual Arts a powerful testament to human and tribal resilience.

Thanks to curator Judith Altruda of Astoria, who still keeps her home in Tokeland, Wash., home to the Shoalwater Bay tribal reservation, visitors to the gallery through Dec. 6 will see a representative sampling of Landry’s work, as well as the work of a new generation of tribal artists. They are filmmakers, photographers, painters, and beadworkers who are heirs to Landry’s tradition of creative expression…

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Exhibit Reception Highlights

Exhibit Reception Highlights

Portrait of Eugene Landry, an Artist, a Time and a Tribe, with Contemporary Shoalwater Bay Artists and Writers, opened at the Astoria Visual Arts Gallery on November 11.

“Thanks all who came to the opening of Eugene Landry – an Artist, a Time and a Tribe. We had a tremendous turn out! For the talk, Chinook council member, Devon Abing, graciously welcomed members of the Shoalwater Bay Tribe. Lee Shipman of Shoalwater presented Earl Davis and other veterans with flags for Veteran’s Day. Project organizer and curator Judith Altruda spoke about her connection to Gene Landry (1937-1988) and read from the recent publication of Squid magazine, a short story she wrote about Eugene’s portrait of Winona Mail Weber, painted in 1969. It was a great night!

See the show through December 6. AVA is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11-3, and by appointment.”

 

Chinook Indian Nation councilman Devon Abing, shortly before being joined by other members of the Chinook Nation welcomed attendees onto their ancestral homeland.

 

Shoalwater Bay tribal elder Lee Shipman presenting former Marine and tribal artist Earl Davis with a commemorative flag for Veterans’ Day.

Shoalwater Bay artist Earl Davis and his son Aiden, with Earl’s sculpture “Knowledge Bearers.”

 

Tribal historian Winona Weber with the portrait Eugene painted of her in 1969

 

The crowd during Artwalk gathering before Judith’s talk.

History panels address indigenous on Willapa (Shoalwater) Bay before and after European and American colonization.

 

Shoalwater Bay Museum docent Jackson Wargo, a member of the Chinook Nation, and one of the contributors to a book of tribal memoir distributed at the event.

 

 

 

 

Exhibit Open!

Exhibit Open!

The Eugene Landry exhibit is now open for viewing.
Shoalwater Bay Heritage Museum (across from the casino)
4115 State Route 105 Tokeland, WA
(360) 267-8130
Admission Free. Masks required.
Tues-Sat, 9:00-5:00.
Eugene Landry Exhibit Grand Opening–Coming Soon!

Eugene Landry Exhibit Grand Opening–Coming Soon!

Behind the scenes at the Shoalwater Bay Heritage Museum.

 

Cultural Specialist and Shoalwater Bay Tribal Member Kristine Torset, (L) and tribal relative Winona Mail Weber (R). They hold oil paintings by Sharon and Eugene Landry. Painted in1965; reunited in 2021.

 

Art Exhibit to Open at Shoalwater Bay Tribe Heritage Museum

 Tokeland, Washington- The Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe is proud to present Eugene Landry; An Artist, A Time and a Tribe, at the Nahms-chahts Heritage Museum. The exhibit will open September 17th.

The display will include 30 oil paintings by Eugene Landry, (1937-1988) an enrolled Shoalwater Bay artist with Hoh and Quileute descent also. Eugene painted the world around him, and the people in it. His paintings tell a powerful story of mid-twentieth century life on the Shoalwater Bay reservation. Paralyzed at the age of 18, he dedicated his life to perfecting his craft from a wheelchair.

Much of his work was lost after his death.

Twenty-five years later, the collection was found in an attic by Tokeland artist Judith Altruda. She has since dedicated herself to restoring Eugene’s artistic legacy and is writing a book about his life and work.

The Heritage Museum is located on the former site of Landry’s studio. It’s only fitting that the art created here, fifty years ago, is coming home.

“Eugene’s art is so much more than just one man’s view of the world,” says Earl Davis, cultural director of the Shoalwater Bay museum. “It is an important index point that highlights a turning point in tribal history. During Eugene’s time, the people were at a crossroads of struggling and recovery. We have come a long way since then but it is important to remember the effort that went into getting us here. Many of our elders when viewing Eugene’s work reflect upon those times and begin sharing those stories with us. I doubt that he ever intended his work to be such important cultural cues, but that’s exactly what they have become.”

A 2019 Humanities Washington Storyteller’s grant recipient.

The opening reception will take place on September 17th from 3:00-6:00. The exhibit will be on display during regular museum hours; Tuesday-Saturday 10:00-6:00 Admission Free. Masks required. 4115 State Route 105 Tokeland, WA (360) 267-8130