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Judy MacLeod, Koth Gallery

After almost 40 years of painting, Judy MacLeod of Kalama is sharing her work with the public in an art show in the Longview Library Koth Gallery. The show runs until Jan. 31. 

The walls in Judy MacLeod’s house will be bare for the month of January.

The lavish landscapes and lively portraits that usually adorn her living room are instead hanging in the Longview Library’s Koth Gallery. It’s MacLeod’s first solo show as a painter.

“I look at these and I just can’t believe it. I can’t believe I’ve done this,” she said Saturday during a gallery reception.

MacLeod, 73, has been painting for more than 40 years. The majority of her works feature the places she lived with her husband when he was working with IBM, or places they visited while volunteering with Servants on Wheels Ever Ready (SOWER), a Christian community service organization.

“I love the landscapes because that’s where I’ve been. A piece of my heart is there,” said MacLeod, who now lives in Kalama with her husband.

As SOWER volunteers, MacLeod and her husband spent almost 10 years living in a 42-foot R.V., she said. They were enlisted to help with a wide variety of service projects across all 50 states, including building homes with Habitat for Humanity, delivering food to the homebound with Meals on Wheels and working in Christian schools.

Along the way, MacLeod packed her paints, brushes and easel, occasionally documenting the places where she found the most beauty. From the desert of Arizona to rolling waves on the Pacific Coast, MacLeod’s paintings cover a vast ground of land.

“Every two to three years were were picking up and starting all over somewhere else,” MacLeod said.

During that time, MacLeod wrote letters to her high school friend, Jan Hughes. Though the women have been friends for more than 60 years, Hughes had not seen any of MacLeod’s paintings until Saturday, when she drove down from Whidbey Island to stop by the Koth Gallery.

“In her letters, she’s said she was painting, but I didn’t have a clue. … I was just prepared to say something nice,” Hughes said with a laugh, “But they just took my breath away. I wasn’t prepared for the quality and range and skill level.”

Other gallery visitors Saturday commended MacLeod on her ability to paint beautiful landscapes, but also portraits and more “contemporary” pieces.

“It’s a dream,” MacLeod said of the show. “If it encourages someone and brings happiness to their life, then it was worth it.”

MacLeod’s is the first of about nine shows scheduled in the Koth Gallery this year. Gallery Coordinator Daniel Tate said the library usually rotates in a new artist every month.

“Our belief is that this is the public space, and this gallery is for the artist to show their work for free,” Tate said. “It doesn’t have to be a professional working artist who is trying to sell work. For me, if you make work, then you’re an artist, and you can show it here because it’s here for the public.”

MacLeod first learned about the gallery when she submitted one of her pieces to a competition at the library last year. She said her interest in a solo show “just emerged from there.”

Now her works are hanging in the “cultural center in the city,” MacLeod said. And it’s one of the best galleries in all 50 states, she said.

“I know the city is trying to cut the funding, but this is one example of how the library brings art to the people,” she said. “The city would lose something if this part of the library was closed.”

MacLeod’s paintings will be on display until Jan. 31, after which the library will host the Lower Columbia College student show.

“We want to celebrate our community, and communities are always full of artists and people who consider themselves artists, creative people,” Tate said. “This is a way to celebrate that and show that.”

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