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Mountain-climbing Portland artist Kim Osgood finds inspiration outdoors; her new exhibit is 'Tree Lessons' and it's showing at Russo Lee Gallery

COURTESY: KIM OSGOOD - Kim Osgood celebrates a momentous occasion atop Mount Rainier, finishing and earning the '16 Major Northwest Peaks Award' from the Mazamas climbing club.Business took Kim Osgood to Southeast Asia, where spirituality captured her. Climbing brought Osgood to the peaks of many mountains, during which she encountered her fair share of trees. And vacations in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, provided plenty of relaxation time, allowing her to create great art.

So, for her latest art project, Osgood incorporated all influences to create "Tree Lessons," an exhibit of nurse stumps as sacred trees, now showing at Russo Lee Gallery in Northwest Portland.

"This is a very different body of work for me," Osgood says. "I'm known for bright, colorful landscapes and monotypes, like with birds and butterflies. I've been working on ('Tree Lessons') for about four years, and I've been doing plein air — working outside."

Indeed, "Tree Lessons" started through Osgood's involvement with the Mazamas climbing group. You see, in the past 12 years, not only has Osgood participated in climbs with Mazamas, she has gone the extra, er, mile(s) up many big hills.

It took several years, but Osgood earned the Mazama's "16 Major Northwest Peaks Award" for completing climbs up to the peaks of 16 mountains in the western United States. She summited Mount Rainier last year to finish the quest; according to Mazamas, 489 individuals have completed the "16 Peaks," with 112 of them being women.

COURTESY: KIM OSGOOD - Kim Osgood has long been known as a monotype painter but has a new show exhibiting her plein air paintings.Needless to say, Osgood, who lives in Southeast Portland, can't think of any other women artists who have completed such an endeavor, and she also co-owns Paloma Clothing, a well-known women's clothing boutique in Southwest Portland, with her husband, Mike Roach. It's quite an intersection of art, physical activity and business.

"I just try not to get left too far behind," jokes Roach, who's an active volunteer and small business leader in Portland. "I knew I married a younger woman; she's five years younger than me."

Paloma Clothing has been named Portland's best women's clothing boutique by Willamette Week several times. Osgood's art has been added to collections by Bill and Melinda Gates, Hallie Ford Museum of art, Portland Art Museum, Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art and Oregon Health & Science University.

But, for her, climbing mountains became her passion and commitment for herself.

A friend, Peggy Schwartz, started her doing some climbs through Mazamas. One thing led to another, and it was "16 Peaks" in the books.

"I didn't start Mazamas until I was 50, and I'm now 62," she says.

COURTESY: KIM OSGOOD - Kim Osgood usually carries along painting supplies on her climbs, but she also finds inspiration from her visits to Zihuatanejo, Mexico. Says her husband, Mike Roach: 'She's proud to be an artist for so many years.'Climbing all 16 peaks took time, because of training and logistics, and weather simply made Osgood and fellow climbers stop their treks at times. On many mountains, they had to stop and turn back, and return later and try again. Osgood says it took 27 total attempts to complete "16 Peaks."

"I didn't start out with the idea of doing it, but once it got closer, 'I really want to complete this,'" she says.

"We did at least three of the 16 peaks together, including a failed attempt up Rainier — we were up there four days and had to turn around," says Larry Beck, a Portland attorney and fellow Mazamas climber. "She went back and got it, and so did I. We also did the Mount Adams climb, and one of the long ones was Mount Olympus in the Olympics — four days, a 45-mile trek in."

Beck says that Osgood excels in the rock climbing portions of climbs. She's also an avid rock climber. "She sets rope protection. We call her 'The Rope Gun,'" he adds. It helps that Osgood is not the tallest climber out there, and "she's very dedicated to training and improving her skills. She's strong, tenacious and trains hard for it."

On an attempt to climb Mount Jefferson, some rocks broke loose and hit her arm, and she suffered a fracture.

The 16 peaks are Baker, Shuksan, Glacier Peak, Olympus, Rainier, Stuart, Adams, St. Helens, Hood, Jefferson, 3-Fingered Jack, Washington, North Sister, Middle Sister, South Sister and Shasta.

Many times while climbing, Osgood would pack along paint brushes, paint and paper. Because, of course, she's also an artist.

"I didn't want to take anything extra that would weigh even an ounce," Beck says. "She brings paint and brushes ... and she has to carry her share of team gear."

COURTESY: RUSSO LEE GALLERY - Monotypes are Kim Osgood's specialties.Roach climbed with Mazamas as a younger person. He's proud of his wife's activity.

"Little did I know that she'd turn it into a real avocation and important part of her life, with a different circle of friends and acquaintances," Roach says. "When she bagged her 16th peak, Mount Rainier on I think the second or third attempt, I was so excited, I couldn't hardly believe it.

"It's a real accomplishment. At the awards banquet, they had the names of people who had done it, but they didn't give ages. Starting at 50 and finishing at 62, it's probably not been done too many times."

Just call it experience for her plein air painting. In her travels, she became even more fond of nature and, in particular, nurse stumps. They inspired her in "Tree Lessons," which is a tribute to sacred trees. (Plein air involves painting on paper on site and then transferring it to a different medium, such as wood panels with "Tree Lessons.")

"They are symbols of regrowth and rebirth, kind of where we can't know the entire story of what's going on around us," Osgood says. "I embrace that exuberant energy."

Her time in Zihuatanejo on vacation also inspired her to paint; in Mexico (and Europe), trees are often central to town activities. On her travels for Paloma Clothing to Southeast Asia, Osgood developed a fondness for Buddhism, Hinduism and Daoism, and seeing trees as "an intermediary between heaven and Earth." She grew up in New Hampshire, admiring author Ralph Waldo Emerson, "who writes about trees as being a cathedral."

COURTESY: RUSSO LEE GALLERY - Nurse stumps are featured in 'Tree Lessons.'Osgood's work, both monotypes (painting on glass plate and then pressing) and plein air, focuses on nature and not people. Says Eva Lake of Russo Lee Gallery: "She's very well known for doing monotypes. And there's the way she uses space — there's often no front or back, it's all sort of suspended. Sometimes her work has more in it, sometimes it's more minimal. ... She's very popular."

As for being in collections, "I try to make the most positive work I can to put out there," says Osgood, who also has gallery exhibits showing in Seattle and Astoria.

Osgood serves as co-owner and buyer for Paloma Clothing, which her husband and her husband's mother started in 1975; Roach and Osgood married in 1984, and Osgood took over half ownership a couple years later. It's located in the Hillsdale Town Center.

"She has the tougher end of the co-ownership," Roach says. But "she probably considers herself an artist first and business person second. She's proud to be an artist for so many years."

Osgood says she has a bucket list of climbs, including Mount Kilimanjaro. The epic Mount Everest is not part of it — for now.

Her involvement with Mazamas "made me strong physically," she says, "to be able to deal with difficult situations and dynamics and just putting yourself out there."


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