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by Careen Stoll
Elisabeth Walden is one of the two recipients of the Kimberly Gales Scholarship for Young Artists this year. She has moved here recently from New York to refine her print technique in preparation for continued studies in the arts at a graduate school. The arc of her brilliance is likely to be long: with a BA Cum Laude from Yale and a naturally confident manner, she brings a consideration to her making process that will easily translate to any expression she may choose.
Walden describes a feeling of ambiguity when representing the gallery spaces in which she has spent considerable time as an undergraduate and as an intern. In the jewel-like format of an aquatint print with inlaid chine-colle, she deconstructs the spaces that are designed to bring light to the art while maintaining their own spine. Walden’s fascination rests on clarifying the existence of that light caught in the geometry of walls and shadows which she then repeats via the print suite in subtle variations of mood and focus.
Take, for example, her suite based on the Yale University Art Gallery designed by Louis Kahn. Pictured above is a print clearly showing the relationship of the ceiling to the walls designed to be portable and floating above the floor. Walden loves the mathematical origins of the ceiling design inspired by the pyramids of Giza. She also loves the light that passes under the wall, and chose to draw the viewer’s focus towards it by zooming in until the prints became abstract theme and variations. Yet within the context of the suite, the viewer is given the necessary meta- awareness: this is a print hanging on a wall, of walls on which are hung prints. Her use of chine-colle heightens the experience even more: by adding a mild slip of colored rice paper, to denote the wall, she is formally adding light behind the darkness of the inks.
Concerning her internship at the Guggenheim, which she enjoyed in the summer after her degree, Walden has some pointed commentary on Frank Lloyd Wright’s use of the spiral. She remarks that Lloyd Wright hated the New York grid, and would have like to tear it all down and rebuild the city with spirals. She says the grid is what New York is all about, and so in her prints, she has shoved the Guggenheim back into the box-shaped buildings. Again she explores the suite, which she is completing: subtle moods, abstract composition, focusing on the light.
Elisabeth currently works at Bite Studio and her work can be seen there on First Fridays. She loves the sense of community that comes with this studio and the wider art world here in Portland. Just last month, she was awarded an Honorable Mention in the juried show associated with the Cascade AIDS Project. Her participation in Portland Open Studios as a scholarship winner was also a pleasant surprise, and we are pleased to support her.
For more information and images of Elisabeth’s work, go to elisabethwalden.com
Information about bite studio is available at bitestudio.org
By Shu-Ju Wang
By her own accounts, Mary Bennett’s work is all over the board. She’s passionate about the collaborative process and public participation, both of which are notoriously difficult to predict and project what the end results will be.
She’s also new in town, having just moved here one week prior to the 2009 Portland Open Studios weekend. After crisscrossing the country from San Francisco to Santa Fe, Savannah, New York and Boston before settling in Portland, she’s ever eager to delve deeper into the artistic community and in engaging the PDX public in her work.
And here’s one example of what Portland might be in for—while in San Francisco, she spent two years developing a public art concept that involved random mailings of handmade postcards, dialogues & interactions with perfect strangers and documenting it all. The project never happened, although she did pay two years worth of rental on a post office box in anticipation.
After moving to Santa Fe, she implemented the project. This time, using her home address and phone number, she created untold numbers of handmade postcards (each in duplicates) and randomly chose 180 recipients from the telephone book. Over the following 6 months, each person received up to 8 postcards in sequence. The first postcards said “hello,” the second said “how are you?” And so on. The postcards could be stopped if the recipients called or wrote to put a stop to them.
Because Santa Fe was a small community, she imagined that this would be a conversation starter among those who received postcards, such as “hey, who do we know in that part of town that might be sending these?” But instead, the dialogues and interactions seemed strictly between her and her recipients, her and the police, and her and the local prison warden.
She had people question her sanity, she received anonymous phone calls, strange home visits, and became friends with the warden’s wife. At the end of six months, the duplicate postcards, documentations of the interactions, and all the recipients who hung on to the end all came together in an exhibit, which one critique called the best racial integration experiment the city had ever seen.
The project was repeated in Memphis. And once again, the process was able to cut through racial & economic lines, to bring groups of people together at events that otherwise rarely drew a diverse crowd.
When Mary is not devising ways to mix things up for the public, to move & blur rigid social & economic lines, she’s busy tearing up her paintings & prints and old books & newsprint to breathe new life into them:
“It’s very important for me to start with materials that have had a former life, I want them to have been something else, and I want to transform or reconfigure or make them something different. I don’t care if you recognize it or not, this former life, and I almost always use text.”
Although she makes this statement about the personal art that she creates, the objects that she makes, its relevance to her public art is clear.
Mary Bennett received her BFA in Painting and Printmaking and her MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts; when you visit her studio, be prepared for anything & everything to happen. And the next time you walk out of the grocery store, the woman asking you for your now-useless shopping list might just be your chance to participate in a public art event!
To see some of Mary Bennett’s book arts work in June:
23 Sandy Gallery
June 3 — June 26, 2010
Artist Reception on Friday, Jun 4, 5-8pm
Be sure to check out the work of many of our talented artists at the Olympic Mills Commerce Center this Friday June 4th.
Olympic Mills Commerce Center
107 SE Washington St.
showing from June 4th – July 5th, 2010, from 7-9
The Northwest Art HerStory is a show giving light to the roots and futures of local female working artists. Among them include women that will also be exhibiting in Portland Open Studios: Kelly Williams, Anna Magruder, Shawn Demarest, Theresa Andreas O’Leary, and Amy Stoner
kelly williams artist
Opening from 6pm to 10pm on Friday June 4th
at 2000 SE 7th Ave.
Portland, OR 97214
For more information, visit
bitestudio.org or firstname.lastname@example.org or Elisabeth Walden on Facebook
Featuring the Prints of