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New Chehalem Cultural Center show depicts creative, destructive force of nature

When Marion McMuldren set about creating the paintings that capture a piece of the natural world, she wasn't interested in the typical landscape painting – she wanted to hone in on a single element "to represent the incredible beauty of that one element."

The result of her efforts is "Magma," a visually striking collection of pieces that appear almost like she painted while on the rim of a volcano or the surface of the sun, evoking a 'wow' factor "that few things other than nature can elicit" and that requires more than just a glance.

The series opened at the Chehalem Cultural Center, 415 E. Sheridan St., earlier this month, adorning the upper walls of the center's lobby as visitors walk in the front door.

McMuldren explained in an email that her technique relies on suspending pigments in one of five liquid binders she has developed. She selects a specific binder depending on what subject matter she is looking to address, in this case magma.

"I found that I could depict the delicate almost ethereal side as well as the raw power of the magma," she explained in an email. "My biggest thrill was when I discovered that I could 'almost' capture a visual essence of the concussion created by an eruption of the bursting of the sun."

While she has refined the approach, McMuldren admitted that she still doesn't always know how it will play out, saying "at some point the ingredients and the principals of chemistry and physics will take ultimate control: What a parallel to real life!"

McMuldren gave a sneak peak of her next series, "Nebula," which includes depictions of majestic interstellar dust clouds as captured in images by the Hubble Space Telescope.

In the meantime, Magma will be on display at the cultural center through July 29.

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