Plumas Arts cultivating culture & community

Artist-in-Residence James Johnson to show work from Black Mountain Lookout

The Plumas Arts Gallery, located at 525 Main Street in Quincy, will host a reception Friday, November 4, 2016, from 5:00pm to 7:00pm to mark the opening of Artist-in-Residence James Johnson's new exhibit inspired by his stay at the Black Mountain Fire Lookout.

The Artist-in-Residence Program, Plumas Arts, and the Plumas National Forest offer artists an opportunity to pursue their art form while being inspired by the Forest landscapes. This year, Johnson was one of 2 artists chosen from the pool of applicants to spend several days each at the Black Mountain Lookout, a refurbished fire lookout located on the eastern edge of the Beckwourth Ranger District, 10 miles from Highway 395, near Milford, California. The other artist chosen was Alex Lemnah, a writer from Quincy.

Johnson graduated from San Jose State University in 1972 with a degree in Fine Arts. Since then he has pursued many avenues of employment, including Volkswagen diagnostics, solar installation, house painting, and graphics for video game companies Accolade and 3DO. Most recently, he has built an art gallery in Tobin, along Highway 70. Along the way, he has become involved in the Plumas County art scene; this will be his second show at the Plumas Arts Gallery.


This past June, Johnson stayed at the Black Mountain Lookout for 4 days, enjoying the gorgeous vistas, the ever-changing cloudscape, and vivid sunsets. He remarks, "It was very windy and warm up there, with lots of bees and gnats when it was calm. The blue ridges were feeling the heat and dry, what little green was left would disappear in the next month." Most of the snow had gone, he adds, "Only Mt. Lassen and the high Sierras miles south wore the winter whites."

"I had a lot of time to think and reflect," he says. "I would stretch a new sheet of paper, and wait for the blazing sunset." The paintings inspired by his time at the lookout show his careful observation of nature's many moods, capturing the soft early morning pastel sky and the mid-day heat over the drying valley floor. Each piece has a strong sense of place, rooted in its environment.

The artwork of long-time fire lookout Richard "Specs" Matheny will also be on display for the month. Plumas Arts, in partnership with the Plumas National Forest, will host a reception on Friday, November 18, 2016 from 5-7pm. Literary Artist-in-Residence Alex Lemnah will read from his poetry inspired by his stay at the lookout, James Johnson will be on hand to talk about his experience, as well as others sharing their thoughts and memories of iconic lookouts.

Johnson's work will hang at the Gallery throughout the month of November, alongside the work of Plumas Arts Member Artists.

The Plumas Arts Gallery and office hours are Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 11am to 5pm, and Saturday from 11am to 3pm. The show will run until November 26, 2016. Please visit Plumas Arts on the web at for more information about their programs, and to see the gallery exhibition schedule for 2015.