Hatfield science center in Newport exhibits sea-inspired paintings


By Tiffany Woods

A new exhibit of paintings representing the sea and coastal mudflats is on display through July 7 at the public wing of the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport.

Mimi Cernyar Fox, an artist from Raymond, Wash., created the exhibit, which is called “Water Water Everywhere” and is showing at the Oregon Sea Grant-operated Visitor Center at Hatfield. It features five paintings that use oil, acrylic or charcoal on canvas.

painting of ocean

“In the Bosom of the Sea” is on display at Hatfield. (photo courtesy of Mimi Cernyar Fox)

Cernyar Fox is no stranger to Newport. She has taught art at the Oregon Coast Community College and shown some of her work at the Newport Visual Arts Center. She put herself through art school by tending bar in the summers at Newport’s bayfront, where she became friends with some of the fishermen. During those summers she’d also spend a few weeks working as a cook and night lookout aboard fishing boats.

“It was something I did so I could study the sea,” she said. “I wanted to understand the light and the water out there. That’s how I learned to paint the sea. During the brief times I would have off, or during my long and lonely four-hour night watch, I would make sketches and color notations in my journal.”

She has since transferred that experience onto the canvas, painting with a forward and backward motion for the eye, much like the movement of a tidal wave.

“I am conscious of the rhythm and movement of the sea and work to paint it in such a way that one can almost hear it,” she said.

That movement is on display at Hatfield in her painting “In the Bosom of the Sea,” which was inspired by the Bering Sea.

painting of a mudflat

“Mudflat-Soldier Boy” uses real shells and is also at Hatfield. (photo courtesy of Cernyar Fox)

Some of her artwork also has an environmental focus, aiming to raise awareness about declining seabirds and the health of the ocean. For example, one of her paintings, “The Signal,” at Hatfield features a mudflat with real shells and a figurine blowing a trumpet “as a signal that our beaches and our marine birds are in danger,” she said. Another, “In the Quiet,” is made with broken sand dollars to signify starving seagulls, which eat them.

Cernyar Fox holds a bachelor’s degree from the Pacific Northwest College of Art and a Master of Fine Arts from Washington State University.

Her exhibit is part of a growing effort to include marine-inspired art as a complement to the research-focused displays at the Visitor Center. A current exhibit, for example, features pottery depicting 28 threatened or endangered species in the Pacific Northwest.

Every year, about 150,000 people pass through the doors of the Visitor Center, where they can touch sea anemones, crash simulated tsunami waves against Lego structures, marvel over model-sized fishing boats, or watch aquatic animals in aquarium tanks.