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The word ‘green‘ is prominent in this year’s Portland Open Studios, a tour of 98 artists’ workplaces throughout metro Portland.

‘Green’ and ‘art’ said in the same sentence usually means the color. Marcy Baker uses a lot of green, gentle new grass green and deep rich pine, in her prints and paintings which are abstractions of her garden and the plants in the backyards of her neighborhood.

Below, Marcy Baker’s work:

These days ‘green‘ means the use of recycled materials. Many of the artists use found objects. Allen Kinast makes one of a kind furniture out of reclaimed lath left over from remodeling sites. He uses the cut narrow pieces of wood both on end and flat for a mosaic-like technique that yields geometric designs that are anything but static. His furniture is a great marriage between function and art. He uses the same techniques to make wall works, from tile sized to those that fit on a whole wall.

Allen Kinast:

What do french fries and ceramics have in common? Sure, you could eat a bowl of fries in a beautiful ceramic bowl thrown by Careen Stoll. But you would be wrong. Stoll uses recycled vegetable oil to fire the kiln that she has built in her backyard to turn raw clay into beautifully colored, elegantly shaped bowls, cups, plates and other utilitarian objects. The technical and physical challenges are numerous in both building the kiln and every time it is fired. She has to be part scientist and part magician to get the desired results in using this unusual fuel. Who said being green or an artist is easy?

Careen Stoll’s work, and her building her kiln:

Tom Soule, another artist on the neighborhood has his studio in a green house, actually gray in color, but has a 3.5 KW solar panel system on the roof that feeds directly into the (PGE) grid. The southward, oriented system has no “dark” periods during the day, and is on a slant with the roof to make its exposure 95% efficient. It has radiant floor heating, a passive solar heat storage in the concrete floor and low E glass on the windows. Don’t neglect Soule’s watercolor and gouache paintings which combine strong color with textured areas to create abstract images suggestive of buildings or geometric structures. His wood sculpture is more organic in form.

Tom Soule’s work and studio:

Whether you go by bicycle, car, bus or walk your own neighborhood you will be transported to the land of imagination, craftsmanship and beauty. Go ahead, paint the town green.

You can watch artists at work in your green neighborhood during Portland Open Studios and other areas throughout the metro area on October 11, 12 and 18, 19. New this year is that many are open both weekends. Check the map and Tour Guide for the complete schedule, then cross the river both weekends. The $15 Tour Guide comes with two tickets, maps, pictures of all artists’ artwork, and contact information (in 2009 calendar format). Children under 18 are free. Available at Art Media, New Seasons, and other stores listed on


By Morgan Madison

Below, Recording Memory, painted found object on wood, by Bonnie Meltzer.

At the outset of our interview Bonnie warns that she has had a few cups of coffee and might be a little scattered, but to be honest it is quite remarkable that she keeps everything together with all she has going on. Self-described “Portland Open Studios yenta,” Bonnie fulfills a nurturing role as board member and the public relations coordinator. She also designs websites, writes and lectures on art and technology and the use of recycled materials in art and keeps a large garden. Somehow, in the midst of all this she has managed to become an accomplished “very mixed media artist” known for her social commentary and distinct use of recycled materials.

Bonnie was born in New Jersey “with a crochet hook in her hand” and her interest in textiles has remained a constant. It certainly reflects in the way she has woven her passions for art, technology and recycling throughout her life. A visit to her studio quickly reveals this. The large well-lit space just outside the garden in her backyard looks at first like a repository for old hardware that has been cast aside by the march of technology. There are rows of jars with nuts and bolts and snips of things, cans of paint and glue and stacks of keyboards and circuit boards. Immediately one can see her zest for recovering artifacts that would be bound for oblivion. But this is only the beginning.

From these disparate materials Bonnie creates colorful and wonderfully textured compositions. An ordinary bundle of computer wire in her hands becomes a dynamic crocheted textile. Found objects and paint give new life to old books. Maps and globes are layered with metal objects and photographs. More than just beautiful to look at though, the juxtaposition of different elements in Bonnie’s work creates a dialog about current social issues. And this is magnified by the rich irony that she uses the outdated detritus of technology to speak so loudly about timely topics.

Below, Workshirt.

In Workshirt, for example, she has created the classic form of a blue-collar uniform shirt out of wood and maps and covered it with the digital portraits of North Portland residents. The result is a wonderfully layered exploration of the working class past and changing present nature of her own neighborhood. It is, along with much of Bonnie’s work, a foundation for thinking about and exploring community, relationships and even politics.

With a visit to Bonnie Meltzer’s studio one can see first hand the intersection of art and life. Her dynamic and nurturing personality shines through her work. And the value that she places on social awareness and community involvement is apparent in her passion and the subject matter of her art work.

In addition to participating in Portland Open Studios 2008, Bonnie is showing The Altered Book Project, at Albina Community Bank in St. Johns through October 16th.

You can see more of Bonnie’s work at her website

To learn more about Portland Open Studios, please see

By Bonnie Meltzer

Several Portland Open Studios artists visited some of the other studios on the tour to document what artists do. Lisa Parsons, a painter and photographer took pictures of the art process. Allen Schmertzler and Deborah Marble drew the artists at work. Here is a small sampling of all the drawings and photos.

Allen Schmertzler is a master craftsman. Whether he uses chalk and conte crayon for quick drawings or acrylic paint for his people filled paintings, he is able to make the people come alive. They aren’t frozen in stop motion, they are still dancing across the page.

Deborah Marble is one of those artists who makes drawing seem easy. With just a few lines she gets everything just right, from body language to the motion of a scene.

Gene Phillips builds sculptural vessels out of flat slabs of clay that are joined together. The result is a happy marriage between rectangular and curvy shapes that are inspired by the human form and plants. He carves the clay before it is fired to create highly textured repeating patterns.

Wendy Dunder creates lighted sculptures that are made with a process akin to paper mache. The shapes have their roots in nature, resembling giant blooms or pods.

Lisa Parsons, who photographed Allen and Gene is a painter who uses bold sharp shapes as a metaphor for the conflicts in the Middle East.

Each of the individual artists has a unique way of working. The beauty of Portland Open Studios is that you can see a pantheon of art diversity in just two weekends.

Below, Allen Schmertzler drawing Gene Phillips at work (photographed by Lisa Parsons):

And the result:

Below, Lisa Parsons’s photograph of Gene at work:

Below, Debbie Marble’s drawing of Wendy Dunder at work:

To find out how to visit 98 artists’ studios over the weekends of Oct 11, 12, 18, and 19, visit

Portland Open Studios Homepage

Learn more about the Open Studios weekends, where to purchase tour guides, see images of each artist's work, find links to artists' web sites, and much more at Portland Open Studios.


Listen to interviews with Portland Open Studios artists (and more) at Mike Turner's website.


October 2008
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