To celebrate the opening of an exhibition of contemporary landscape paintings by Philip Koch, the Carbon County Cultural Project, 268 W. Broadway, Jim Thorpe, invites the public to a free opening reception.

The exhibit, Philip Koch Contemporary Landscape Paintings, will be displayed at the Victor Stabin Gallery at the CCCP from July 1 through Aug. 14. The opening reception for the artist is from 7-9 p.m., Friday, July 1.

In addition to having an opportunity to chat with the artist, visitors will see approximately 20 vividly-colored contemporary landscape paintings. Koch, who is a professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art, describes his work as that of a realist who used to work abstractly.

"I really love his use of color," said Joan Morykin, who brought the exhibit to the CCCP. "I love the way he composes his paintings and his use of color. I find his landscapes to be stunning."

By vivid, the colors of his pallet might be described as bright, saturated and intense.

"We don't experience the world as fuzzy," Koch said. "We run into hard objects and there is a solidity to that experience."

Koch's works are painted in blocks of color with an emphasis on bold dramatic shapes.

"All artists try to invent dramatic shapes and unexpected color. I am interested in doing both," said Koch.

"When we were children, nature seemed huge magical and alive," he said. "Now, my paintings are an invitation for one to go back to that world and explore."

Koch grew up near Rochester, N.Y. in a deep forest along the rocky shore of Lake Ontario where he spent hours exploring nature.

"As a kid, I sensed right away that nature was something of immense power. Year round we'd have strong north winds off the Great Lake raking the beech and birch forest. Winter snows were frequent and deep. It was jaw-dropping in its beauty. All my vivid memories are images of being out in that near-wilderness."

His other hobby was cartooning.

"As a kid of 8, I copied cartoons out of MAD Magazine and it never stopped. I still do silly cartoons of cats for family members."

At the time he started studying sociology at Oberlin College, both his interest in drawing and nature were on the back burner-until he took a class in art history.

"I was in my first semester of Oberlin College and I took a required art history class just to get it out of the way so I could get serious about my major in sociology," Koch said. "To my surprise, the only class that I liked was the art history class."

One painting, in particular, captured his imagination, redirecting him to the life of an artist.

"The very first day of class, my instructor showed a slide of the painting, The Wreck of the Hope, by 10th-century German landscape painter, Caspar David Friedrich. That image of a ship crushed by icebergs grabbed me."

The blue, brow and gray painting of upset ice sheets and strewn wreckage against a barren ice field struck a chord.

"When I saw that painting, it reminded me of some of the best times I had as a kid playing on these mountains of ice," he explained.

Koch paints outdoors, never from photographs.

"Working from direct observation, you get a much more personal expressive quality in the work, and it is more fun," he said. "I think visual art should be in part delightful for the artist and the viewer. If it isn't fun, what are we doing it for?"

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