In the aftermath of the 1980 explosion of Mount St. Helens, Patricia Grieve Watkinson, then director of the Washington State University Museum of Art, organized a nationwide competition for artists to express their reactions to the eruption.

Titled “Living with the Volcano: The Artists of Mount St. Helens,” the exhibition traveled to about 20 venues in Washington, Idaho, Utah, Oregon, and Montana from 1983 to 1987. One of the artists represented was Linda Okazaki (’71 Fine Arts, ’75 MFA).

Watkinson wrote about the exhibition and Okazaki’s work:

As one would expect, it was the cataclysmic results of Mount St. Helens’ eruption—the uncontrollable power of nature and the unleashing of chaos—that affected many artists. In this chiefly pessimist view, nature is seen as indifferent, negative, destructive, fearful or awesome—yet not without moments of beauty. Humankind is an impotent and hapless sufferer, frequently unaware of its helplessness and lack of control. …

Animals and birds also fell victim to the volcano… . In Linda Okazaki’s watercolors Birds of a Feather Fall Together and Night Explosion, brightly colored finches, the embodiment of life, tumble dead from a bleak night sky onto the bare rock below. Mount St. Helens, the assumed instrument of death, puffs unheeding in the background.

—“Mount St. Helens: An Artistic Aftermath” (Art Journal, Fall 1984, p.260)

After teaching at the WSU Fine Arts department for seven years, Okazaki moved to Port Townsend in 1980, built a studio and house with her husband, Ray Weber, reared three children, and maintained a studio practice, which continues today. Her son Miles, then six years old, was also represented in the Mount St. Helens exhibition.

Painting by Linda Okazaki of finches falling after eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980

Birds of a Feather Fall Together watercolor by Linda Okazaki
(Photo by Robert Haft—click for larger view)