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Cascadia Art Museum Exhibit Opening, A Spirit Unbound: The Art of Peggy Strong

  • Cascadia Art Musuem 190 Sunset Avenue South #E Edmonds, WA 98020 USA (map)

Peggy Strong (1912-1956) was one of the leading regional artists of the mid-20th century. Born in Tacoma, Washington, Strong studied at the Annie Wright Seminary, the University of Washington and privately with Mark Tobey, Sarkis Sarkisian and Frederick Taubes.

Peggy Strong developed a significant reputation as a painter and muralist despite being paralyzed in the lower half of her body as the result of an automobile accident in 1933. One of her crowning achievements was winning the mural commission for the Wenatchee Post Office sponsored by the US Treasury department in 1940. The large panels depicting “The Saga of Wenatchee” were produced in her studio at Gravelly Lake, near Tacoma. This massive undertaking was accomplished with the assistance of her father, Charles A. Strong, a Civil Engineer who devised a self- operated elevator for her studio as well as an automobile hand control system that allowed her to drive and work independently. Strong produced several other murals in the region and had briefly relocated to San Francisco before her untimely death in 1956.

Peggy Strong’s early work utilizes a personal, stylized realism that was well suited for portraiture, still-life and landscapes. They are distinguished by a vibrant palette and with subject matter that emphasizes an optimistic view of the world. As her health began to deteriorate after WWII, her paintings reflect the physical and mental challenges that she endured. Intimating an inner turmoil, the palette is reduced to primary and secondary colors and the human elements are sometimes depicted like childhood stick figures. One of her most poignant paintings depicts a hooded woman, likely a symbolic self- portrait, bound and shackled like a 17th century martyred saint.

Strong’s sister, Jean Walkinshaw is a legendary Northwest television producer who has won numerous national and local broadcasting awards. Jean has recently completed an extraordinary documentary film about her sister that will be broadcast on SCCtv and will be screened at the museum during the course of the exhibition.

Peggy Strong, Untitled (Woman with Shackles), ca. 1948. Oil on canvas

Peggy Strong, Untitled (Woman with Shackles), ca. 1948. Oil on canvas