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Portraits of 50 Whatcom residents on display at Lightcatcher

Face it, sometimes when you go to the museum it's nice to see someone or something familiar.

There will be plenty of that at Whatcom Museum's newest exhibit, "Population," by California painter Ray Turner.

The exhibit, which opened last Friday, June 15, and runs through Sept. 9 at the museum's Lightcatcher, features 70 close-up oil portraits, 50 of which are of Whatcom County residents.

The other 20 portraits are from similar exhibits of Turner's at other cities.

Turner visited Bellingham for two days in August 2011 to photograph a sampling of local people. Those photographs guided him as he painted the 50 portraits in broad brush strokes and vibrant colors, walking a wavy line between realism and abstraction.

"It's expressionistic," said Barbara Matilsky, art curator at the museum. "It's about look, and feeling."

Local subjects who posed for photographs range from well-known public figures to people far from the limelight. An explanatory panel will list the names of the 50 people, but you won't find their name or biographical information next to their portrait.

That isn't Turner's approach.

"Names are not important to him," Matilsky said. "He wants a direct relationship between the viewer and the image."

Each portrait is painted on a 12-inch-square glass plate, which is then framed and backed with varied and often vivid colors. The portraits are on display in the museum's ground-floor hallway and its second-floor gallery.

During the exhibit, a screen outside the gallery will display images of local residents photographed by museum staffers at community events. At various times during the show's run, photographers will be available to photograph museum visitors and add their image to the digital collection.

In a similar vein, sketch artists and a portrait photographer will be on hand during the July 6 Downtown Art Walk to create free portraits of museum visitors.

"Any visitor who comes can be part of the exhibition," Matilsky said.


The Lightcatcher, at 250 Flora St., is open noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

Admission is free for museum members; $10 general; $8 for students, seniors and military members; and $4.50 for children under 5. General admission Thursdays is $5.

A "Population" catalog with Whatcom County portraits is on sale at the museum gift shop for $40.

To inquire about purchasing an individual portrait, contact Toomey Tourell Gallery in San Francisco. Phone: 415-989-6444. Online: The cost: $7,500 per painting.