For the last four years, Wenatchee native Sharratt DeLong has driven the same mail delivery route up Highway 97, beginning his days just after 3 a.m.
Making stops in Chelan, Brewster, Malot and Okanogan, DeLong is sharing his quiet and lonely moments on the road as paintings that memorialize his early morning drive. His work is now hanging at the Wenatchee Valley College MAC Gallery for February’s First Friday.
“My painting style– I’m really influenced by a lot of the painters in America and Europe up through the turn of the century, up until perhaps the 1930s,” DeLong said. “I like their fascination with that question of beauty, and finding beauty in the every day.”
DeLong says his job with the U.S. Postal Service has him commuting at dawn and dusk on Highway 97.
“I got a job driving for the post office, as a postal contract driver,” DeLong said. “I would always see the sun come up and the repetition of the experience drew out a lot of my favorite places.”
DeLong says he didn’t intend for this body of work to become a show, often snapping a quick photo or stopping to use watercolors to capture a scene he couldn’t pass up.
“I was just painting these places for their own sake and kind of honoring the everyday things I would see in my own life,” DeLong said. “The weather and the light, it would all line up in this amazing way that would inspire me and bring me a sense of assurance, beauty and comfort on these lonely drives– and lonely is the best way I can describe them.”
Connecting a number of rural communities, Highway 97 sees a steady stream of busy commuters year-round and features landscapes that range in color and terrain.
“There are these moments that I thought were inspiring and almost gifts in themselves,” DeLong said. “I would take photos, I would sketch them but I never had a whole lot of time to do that because I was on a schedule to deliver the mail in bulk to these small towns.”
“I was always on the road during the transition moments of night and day, mornings and evenings,” DeLong said. “All the elements that combine to make that moment aren’t going to be the same again. You do experience some level of regret for not pausing and appreciating it.”
For visitors to The MAC Gallery, DeLong says he hopes they experience the quiet reflection that comes with his landscapes.
“A lot of the people that already live here can re-experience this area, we tend to take everything we’re around everyday for granted, and it’s a completely natural process,” DeLong said. “But there are many constant moments of beauty that occur in all of our everyday lives.”
For more of Sharratt DeLong’s work, track him down on Instagram or Facebook. A first Friday opening reception is slated for February first from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., and will remain hanging in the gallery until February 15th.