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The late Grenon and wife Josephson shared a passion in painting the human form, and Russo Lee Gallery shows their work.

COURTESY PHOTO: RUSSO LEE GALLERY - This is "Rites of Spring (Heiros Gamos)" by Mary Josephson, part of an exhibition of works by her and late husband Gregory Grenon at Russo Lee Gallery.
Gregory Grenon and Mary Josephson formed quite the artistic power couple, each accomplished painters joined as married partners.

So, more than a great artist passed away when Grenon died at age 73 in February. The two were together for decades, each hailing from Michigan but meeting in Portland. They loved motorcycles, baseball, each other and, of course, fantastic colors and art.

In fact, Josephson shares a story of when they first met. She asked him what his favorite color was. He said sap green. He asked her the same question. She said olive green. Both similar colors.

"And, I thought, 'Huh, maybe this guy does have something going on,'" she said. "We started dating soon after that."

Russo Lee Gallery is honoring both artists with "Saints and Monsters, Monsters and Saints," works by Josephson and Grenon (1948-2022), opening Thursday, Sept. 1 and showing through Oct. 1. The opening reception is 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Russo Lee Gallery, 805 N.W. 21st Ave.

"Aside from a literal translation, the exhibition title is an apt description of the ricocheting emotional world from which inspiration is born," publicity stated.

"Gregory and Mary's artwork was paramount from their first meeting and throughout their lives together. They interpreted the world through paint, with color a powerful tool and weapon. Painting the human form, particularly images of women, was a shared passion."

COURTESY PHOTO: RUSSO LEE GALLERY - The late Gregory Grenon produced scores of paintings using fantastic color, and focusing on dynamic and expressive qualities of people. Here is "Reaching the Heart."
Josephson, who lives in Linnton, remains grateful for time spent with Grenon, including in the months before his passing in Italy, October 2021 to January 2022. Grenon had long dealt with atrial fibrillation (Afib for short), and it was in Italy that the two had the most fun, painting and enjoying each other's company and living the relaxed life. Grenon was on oxygen at the time.

Back in Portland, Grenon went to the emergency room and was placed in the intensive care unit — remember, this was during the COVID-19 pandemic, which meant visitors weren't allowed into the ICU.

Josephson was unable to visit with Grenon in the hospital. She spoke with him, along with a chaplain, via Zoom. He was animated and lucid. It was the last time she spoke with him. He died Feb. 6.

"That was the hardest, hardest part," she said. "For people who have been together for so long …"

Many of Josephson's photos in the Russo Lee exhibit represent time spent in Umbria, Italy with Grenon just before his passing.

While there, immersed in ancient history and culture, Josephson experienced a sense of wonder that permeated every aspect of daily life.

Said publicity: "Her paintings reflect a mix of mythological creatures, real monsters, saints and maidens. Many works also reflect Josephson's recent thoughts about the nature of 'home,' both the sense one carries inside and the physical structure itself."

COURTESY PHOTO: AARON JOHANSON - Mary Josephson (right) remembers her late husband, Gregory Grenon, fondly, including time spent in Italy in the months before his passing in February. Russo Lee Gallery hosts an exhibit of their work.Josephson said it was one of the only times the couple went anywhere not specifically for an exhibition opening. It fed into her feeling of "home" in the many paintings she produced in Italy — it's an emotional home. Both of them painted there, and felt wonderful in the experience.

"A really enchanted time," she said.

"No matter where you went, carry itself (home) within your heart," she said. "Wherever you are, that's where it is."

The Grenon works in the exhibition are a cross-section of his varied ways of working throughout his career, including as a colorist and exploring dynamic and expressive qualities of people. He excelled at painting on reverse glass. He's an artist who has shown in many galleries.

They both loved colors. Remember, it's one of the reasons they ended up together.

After Grenon passed, Josephson sought to be a better artist.

"I am not going to bore myself ever again by painting the same painting again and again," she said. "I'm going to shock myself, paint something exciting to me."

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