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by Morgan Madison
Liv Rainey-Smith is a Portland, OR based printmaker. She was first introduced to the medium while earning her BFA from Oregon College of Arts and Crafts. I meet Liv Rainey-Smith at Atelier Meridian, the print making studio and arts community in North Portland where she creates her wonderfully imaginative woodcut prints. It is quickly striking how articulate and well considered she is in our conversation. It shows a thoughtfulness that comes from a life spent immersed in books and stories. Indeed, Liv’s interest in these forms of communication and what they can reveal about humanity comes from a very personal place.
As a child Liv faced serious challenges. She was born with only one ear and a serious heart defect. At the age of 4 she went through open heart surgery and was in and out of hospitals for her ear up until her early teens. Liv says; “These experiences helped create a love of reading and creating as well as a fascination with anatomy and mythology.” These influences are readily apparent in her prints, which are populated with distinctive patterns and fantastical creatures rendered in a crisp graphic style.
Capybara is a wonderful example. Its half rodent/half fish subject sits in regal repose, like some mythological creature. Liv explains; “The story behind the capybara is that it is the world’s largest rodent, and because it is semi-aquatic it is supposedly considered a fish for purposes of consumption on Fridays and during Lent. So the print is my ‘early explorer’ illustration of the wondrous rodent-fish of the new world.” The story and image together reveal enough to set the stage for the viewer’s imagination to take over. The same can be said for a piece like Egress, whose spirit-like subject swirls in the ether while breathing a plume of fire. It is a part of her ongoing series Iunges, which depicts otherworldly messengers, angels of communication. They seem like visitors from some vivid dream. In fact, Liv cites her own dreams as another source of inspiration for her work.
This combination of personal experiences with the symbolism of myths and storytelling gives Liv’s work an enigmatic and compelling character. It inspires a search for meaning that mirrors beautifully the process by which she creates it. In woodcut printing, ink is applied to paper by a block of wood that has been carved to create a design in relief. Liv begins most of her pieces with drawings. However, as she chooses a block and begins to carve Liv pays careful attention to the unique character of each piece of wood. Its personality and quirks help guide her decisions, and as she reveals the story within the wood block it helps shape the story she shares with us.
To see her process in person and to hear Liv speak about her work and inspiration be sure to make her studio (#62) a stop on your 2010 tour of Portland Open Studios.
Liv’s work will be featured with another Portland Open Studios artist in; Liminal: Paintings by Chris Haberman and Woodcut Prints by Liv Rainey-Smith at Pearl Gallery and Framing, October 7th – November 2nd, with an artists’ reception on opening night.
Her work can also be seen at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival, October 1-3 and as part of the Portland Tarot Project show at Splendorporium, November 15 – January 2.
Visit www.livraineysmith.com to see her work online.
Christine Zachery applied to Portland Open Studios as a painter so I was surprised when her mosaic was entered into the MOCC exhibit. The thing that makes this piece so successful is that she has made the technique of mosaic fit to her work rather than the other way around. Look closely, this is no normal grout filled mosaic. She says, “My method was not to try to do anything new but simply to enrich the surface”. She may have done both. She develops her composition as an oil painting and then applies a loose collage of glass pieces over it. Silver leaf under the glass adds to the sparkle. The painting shows through, in various levels of transparency, the clear or monochromatic glass. Previous to making these hybrid mosaic paintings she had been adding metal shavings, ground glass and glass pieces directly onto the paint surface. ”Later, I realized that I could go deeper by having an underpainting which shows through the surface”.
by Carolyn Hazel Drake
You could describe Dr. Robert McWilliams as a career outsider artist. For almost forty years, he has been channeling his humor, collector’s eye, and unique perspective into sculptures that resonate with human experience on an individual, yet somehow universal, scale. He is quick to point out, however, that while he has been in dozens of shows, “I still tell people that I am an amateur artist rather than a real artist… I’ve never had any art training and I’m more amazed than anyone that I’m still making and showing art at age seventy.”
Yet it’s difficult to reconcile the word amateur with Robert’s work. The freshness and playfulness in his approach to form, surface, and subject matter come from a thoughtful, practiced hand and mind – a mind that just happens to have a good sense of humor. The success of a piece like Conductor, for instance, demands that the relationship between the metal (early 19th century hand-forged gate hinges) and the wood (walnut), the diagonal angles, the distribution of emphasis, and the negative space all combine to strike a balance that still maintains some tension.
The title Conductor also works at several levels: the implied conductor at his podium, but also the original role of the gate hinge as a sort of conductor of individuals going to and fro, and finally the electric and thermal conducting quality of metal. Many of his titles play with meaning this way, simultaneously poking fun and making reference.
Robert’s love of folk and outsider art initially evolved from a very practical need: inexpensive furniture. He turned this need into a skill: “My experience refinishing and repairing furniture gave me an appreciation of the complex patinas that old wood and iron surfaces acquire. My interest in antiques, crafts and folk art led me to begin woodcarving, which later came to include other kinds of sculpture.”
With a doctorate in geology, Robert had a successful thirty-year career as a professor at Ohio’s Miami University. He sees his career as distinct from his life as a collector and maker of art, but inasmuch as geology is also the study of the effect of time on the earth, it seems fitting that the themes and materials in his work acknowledge time through personal narrative, found materials, and patina: “Almost every piece I make has a personal story behind it. My work combines whimsy, humor, irony and nostalgia.”
“I carved If Dreams Were Horses Beggars Would Ride, and like many other times, I named my work after I made it, using Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations for inspiration. The quote is from John Ray 1627-1705, who I have never read or heard of, but who also coined the phrases ‘blood is thicker than water,’ ‘money begets money’ and ‘misery loves company’. The quote fits the piece … I guess it reminds me of when I was an impoverished student.”
The Cow That Jumped Over the Moon is made of a foundry wheel, drawer pulls, a wooden salad bowl and the bushing from the wheel.
“Portrait of the Artist as a Turkey is made from a stainless steel teapot, a stove burner liner and the front of an old drawer. The back has a bull’s eye for aiming your foot at his rear end. The inscription is ‘Lord, I am not worthy’. It is painted with artist’s lead base oil paint, which gives it an unusually solemn patina. It’s all about pomposity and a reminder not to take myself too seriously, which most of the time I don’t.”
Robert’s studio is not to be missed during the tour. He openly acknowledges just how fortunate he is to have space, light, and a view from Mt. Tabor (not to mention parquet floors, a wet bar, and a fireplace!).
“I call my work Visionary Sculpture because I don’t know what else to call it,” says Robert. The title seems apt – and anything but accidental.
by Careen Stoll
Every so often on the journey of life, one reaches seemingly impassable terrain. In January of this year, Scott Conary’s wife gave birth to a girl with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Within a few days, she endured the first of three surgeries to be spaced out over her childhood. Scott describes the surgery as something from science fiction, and the experience of those weeks of raw fear and unreal, unavoidable processing of each family member’s pain as akin to stopping a train.
How does the creative person navigate such shifts in their personal landscape? Scott’s paintings are at once straightforward and mysterious: figures stand in undefinable communication with each other, and farmhouses might be placed on only semi-recognizeable land. When describing his paintings, he writes that he tries to create a “solidity” in the play between the subject matter and how much he enjoys using the paint itself as subject matter. Where, then, is his new reality, as the fragile child that he loves is subjected to tangles of probes and tubes. She was given the name Analogue Jane in reference to her eventual ability to escape these impositions of her surgery. His painting is “driven by a love and curiosity of the natural world and how we live within it.” As his internal creative narrative incorporates a new character, how will his dry and kind sense of humor assist him in the description of this beloved new life?
Scott will be opening his studio again in October. Be sure to check out his portfolio at Conary.org.
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
This year, Portland Open Studios paired up 21 artists with about 40 students in a new mentorship education program. Students from four area high schools, Wilson, Century, Grant and Arts & Communications Academy were offered a unique learning opportunity to work with artists in their studios during and after the Portland Open Studios Tour.
Education program chair, Allen Schmertzler, describes the program, “The focus was to educate the public about the process of art making. Students were able to make art with the artists, have their own portfolio/artwork critiqued, learn about organizing and maintaining an art studio, gain sales experience, and spend time in a hands-on manner in the artist’s studio. Students also were able to get credit towards Career Pathways, Career Education, Senior Project, Job Shadow, and/or an Internship for their school’s art graduation requirements.”
Shelley Hershberger, an artist in North Portland was paired up with Megan Delius from Arts & Communications Academy in Beaverton. Here’s what they have to say about their experience with the new mentorship program.
Shelley Hershberger said, “My high school student, Megan Delius, was helpful, polite, showed up on time and respectful of my space and tools. She was in heaven having an opportunity to make monotypes all weekend with ample space and an etching press pretty much to herself. We had great chats during lull times and she pitched in graciously when things were busy. She would be welcome in my studio anytime.”
Megan Delius said, “I definitely loved working with you. It was a fantastic learning experience and overall a really good time. I feel so honored to be able to work with a professional artist, and learning how to do monoprints.”
Susan Gallacher-Turner, a sculpture artist in Tigard was paired with Dani Goodman from Wilson High School in Portland. This is what they have to say about the program.
Dani said,“I learned that you don’t have to limit yourself to one type of art. I learned the different effects you can create with metal using chemicals and heat and how to make different imprints on copper. I learned that by working on a number of projects at once, you can be more patient with your work by moving onto something else. I find myself experimenting with tools to create new effects.”
Susan said, “It was a delight to have Dani in my studio before and during open studios. She greeted guests and gathered contact information. Dani listened so well as I talked and demonstrated, she was able to talk about my art to some visitors while I was talking to others. When we had a lull, I was able to get her started on her own copper repousse’ project. I enjoyed teaching her something new and her energetic help during the tour was wonderful.”
Allen Schmertzler, artist and teacher was paired up with Chrissy Hoover from Century High School in Hillsboro. Here’s what Chrissy said about her experience at Allen’s studio, “I really enjoyed my experience. It was both culturally and artistically enriching. It is fascinating to watch artists get in their personal creative zone and just manipulate ordinary concepts of life into alluring works. The beauty of the movement captured from a split second and transferred to paper has an almost hypnotic appeal to the mind’s eye. Hence, I love the look in the admirer’s eye when they’ve found a piece that really strikes them. This was a great learning experience and also a joy to help with. I give my 100% thanks for this incredible opportunity.”
Students from Wilson High School wrote about their experiences with their artist mentors. Here are some of their experiences in their own words.
Marina Palmrose about artist mentor, Mark Randall, “I experienced a part of the business side to being an artist. Gratification does not come right away, but if you are doing something you love, then following your passion is the most important idea.”
Alex Sanchez shares working in the studio of Shawn Demarest, “Watching her spread the ink on the copper plate, she told me about types of ink and how to handle the cloth as you rub it onto the plate. I ended up taking the copper plate along with the etching needle to work on, once I return, I’ll be looking forward to the outcome of my piece.”
Magali Lopez was inspired by mentor, Kitty Wallis, “I really loved this opportunity. She has been doing art professionally for 50 years, creating her own paper, pastels and techniques. Kitty Wallis is an amazing artist, and very inspiring.”
Dani Goodman about artist mentor, Susan Gallacher-Turner, “I got to see behind the scenes of how a talented artist works. She showed me her sketchbook and her research. How she uses her hands as her main tools. I felt like I stepped into a real artists shoes for a moment, it was a rewarding experience.”
Emily Hall recommends all art students try this experience after being in the studio of Careen Stoll, “This is a great opportunity for students to learn from people at a high level in the artistic field. Anyone who is considering art as a profession needs to experience this. I found it very interesting to see how professionals live and interact with their customers. It definitely opened my eyes to the fact that creating art for a living isn’t a walk in the park like I imagined. I learned so much in just a few hours from an amazing artist.”
Art Teacher, Susan Parker of Wilson High Schools sums up the programs success, “It was an amazing opportunity for these students. I hope Portland Open Studios artists will consider doing something like this again.”
By Shu-Ju Wang
Above, a corner of Susan’s studio with various complete and in-progress work.
Susan Gallacher-Turner is fascinated by shape-shifters. Characters in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, stories from Native American traditions, or even looking out the car window where faces appear in the distant hills and trees…these are all sources of inspiration for her boxes, repoussé work and aluminum window screening sculptures.
Susan is a bit of a shape-shifter herself…
Wait, did you say aluminum window screening?
Yes. Lets talk about that, it is a bit unusual. Although Susan did not start out intending to create sculptures with aluminum window screening, she now does much of her work with that particular material. Previously, she had been working with beadwork and fabric and was trying to create a painted fabric piece that needed to be shaped and formed. After trying various methods, she hit upon the idea of using aluminum screening to shape the fabric and brought it in to consult with her sculpture instructor.
“Why are you bothering with the fabric?” was the instructor’s response.
Once Susan let go of the fabric, it all came together and she started working with the screening material more and more, and she hasn’t looked back.
One might call aluminum screening sculpture X-treme Handiwork. Instead of holding a silk handkerchief and slowly building an image thread by thread, Susan holds a giant piece of aluminum screen in her hands as she slowly and gently pushes into the material to create a form. There are no molds or drawings, she just holds the material in her hands and starts pushing. The nose comes first, but only barely at the beginning. The first round of ‘pushes’ creates the sketch, if you will. Once the sketching is complete, she then goes back and pushes again, to deepen the definition. The process is slow, as once done, it can not be undone; Susan is careful to not over-push it.
As she works, if appropriate, she also starts to shape the entire piece into a form that can stand up by itself. Again, all by pushing and shaping with her fingers. Slowly, the aluminum screening transforms into a human face, an eagle, a lion or a variety of other half animal, half plant creatures. Then Susan paints the sculpture. Coats and coats of paint are needed for the colors to finally built up and be visible on the mesh material. As she paints, she watches for where the material needs more definition and she returns to pushing again.
Back and forth, back and forth, until she’s satisfied with the form, the colors, and the balance. The standalone pieces stand up by themselves indoors; outdoors, they do need some support so that they don’t blow away.
Now, where were we? Oh, yes.
Susan is a bit of a shape-shifter herself — she’s a professional writer, and for those long time readers of this blog, you know that she has contributed much to this forum; she’s also a sculptor of many different mediums, including clay, copper repoussé and, of course, aluminum screening.
To see Susan’s larger and smaller sculptures (many are jewelry pieces), visit her studio during Portland Open Studios on Oct 17 and 18, 2009. Susan is artist number 79 on the tour. You can see more of her work at her website at http://www.susangt.com/.
To learn more about Portland Open Studios, visit their website at http://www.portlandopenstudios.com/.
Below, top: Susan’s workbench where she works on her repoussé work. With the copper sheets, she does sketch first and follow the sketch; bottom: The Shape-shifter Polar Bear.
By Lisa Griffen
For several of the artists in the Portland Open Studios Tour, art came as a later career. Some had early artistic ambitions but postponed pursuing them. Others only discovered their need for creative expression after doing other kinds of work. Regardless of their age at starting, art became central to their lives.
Below: Kelly Williams working in her studio
Kelly Williams began painting with watercolors as a way to relieve the stress of her work with troubled children. With her background in psychology, she quickly realized that art could give children a way to express their feelings about traumatic experiences. It ended up serving the same purpose for her, becoming an important outlet.
Kelly found that art allowed her to communicate about issues emotionally rather than intellectually. Painting became a bigger and bigger part of her life. She eventually became dissatisfied with watercolors and found that encaustic painting felt like a more dynamic medium. People responded. They asked for her paintings and encouraged her to share her work.
The most important aspect of Kelly’s work is truthtelling. She says, “To live like I want to live, I have to paint like I want to paint.” She strives for emotional honesty in her art. She is currently combining her former work and her art career into a project that she hopes will help people deal with the pain of addiction and recovery.
Above: George Perrou
George Perrou had no background in art. He was in his early thirties and working as a waiter when he started feeling a need for a creative outlet. He made collages from magazines, then got interested in photography. His black and white images quickly found an audience. Within a year of buying his camera and learning to print photos, he was selling prints. This early response encouraged him to try painting.
George painted a few paintings freehand but was dissatisfied with the results. Preferring clean edges, he developed his own technique of using masking tape templates. Despite a positive reaction to his art, George was reluctant to give up the security of his restaurant job. He continued to do both for several years, even after sales of his art matched his earnings as a waiter. In the end, the restaurant closed suddenly and he began painting full time.
George thinks his lack of training let him develop his own unique painting style. In fact, George’s art education has occurred backward: he learns about past artists when people relate his work to theirs. He believes that every person has the seed of an artist inside, but the hustle and obligations of our daily lives can mask that creativity. He seems awed that art has become his career and the center of his world.
Above: Carole Zoom working on a woodcut
Carole Zoom had always taken photographs as a hobby but when her life changed dramatically, art became a new calling. In her mid-thirties, Carole was hospitalized for months and had to accept that she would physically dependent on others from that point forward. She says, “I drove myself to the hospital but when I got out I couldn’t even lift a cup of tea.”
During her recovery, Carole started painting with watercolors. Then her mother asked Carole to reprint the woodblocks Carole had done as a middle school student. Printing was something Carole could do on her own. She had some extra ink so she bought linoleum and began carving blocks.
A five-day class with a master printer from Japan helped show Carole the potential for a career in printmaking. She also realized that art could help inform people about issues affecting people with disabilities. She says she is trying to communicate “a fairly raw message” about losing independence. Since 2006, Carole has combined working as an artist with being an activist for social justice.
Below: William Park
William Park always thought he would be an artist but had not gotten around to it. At forty-one years old, he was working as a sign painter. One day he pictured his life at age seventy and imagined the regret he would feel over not pursuing art. He began painting that day. He did not think of art as a career but simply something he needed to do.
He kept working full time and spent four or five hours each day painting. Gradually, the time he spent on his own work increased. He considered going to art school but felt that he had already lost too much time and could learn faster by painting as much as possible. He did take several classes over the years and says they helped teach him what it means to be an artist. Technique, he believes, is something that is mainly gained through practice.
Below: Nicky Falkenhayn welding
Nicky Falkenhayn also had an early interest in art but decided to coach and teach Physical Education because she thought there would be time to be an artist later. When she moved from Switzerland to the United States she decided it was time to focus on art rather than getting certified to teach.
Nicky took classes at Oregon College of Art and Craft. She chose fiber arts as her field because she had sewed her own clothes as a teen and felt comfortable working with cloth. When a close friend had breast cancer, Nicky wanted to figure out a way to make her a metal bra. She had no experience working with metal so she crocheted the piece out of wire. This led to a new interest in sculpture and jewelry making.
Nicky got involved in welding because she wanted to make more interesting supports for her crocheted wire sculptures. Once she started welding, she was hooked. She appreciates the immediacy of the results. It is an art form that is well suited to public pieces, a challenge that Nicky especially enjoys. Nicky believes she benefitted by starting her art career later in her life because she has more confidence and more life wisdom to put into her art.
As Nicky and these other 4 artists illustrate, art and creativity can become a central part of life, no matter your age.
You can visit the studios of Nicky Falkenhayn, William Park, Carole Zoom, George Perrou and Kelly Williams during the Portland Open Studio Tour, October 10, 11 and 17 ,18 from 10 am to 5 pm. Pick up your Tour Guide at New Seasons, Art Media, Powell’s or on our website at http://www.portlandopenstudios.com
By Bridget Benton
I am a woman obsessed with making art from just about anything I can get my hands on. I naturally tend toward collage and assemblage art, and have
incorporated this approach into my work making jewelry, fiber art, acrylic
paintings, and now encaustic art. The more media I can combine—and the more crazy materials I can incorporate—the happier I am. In fact, the materials often guide my work. Later, I will discover themes and meanings emerging, but in the magical moment of making, the materials are the driving force.
About a year ago, a material that grabbed my attention was all the plastic
that I couldn’t put in my new blue curbside recycling bin: plastic bags,
clamshell containers, and the humble plastic bottle cap. It looked like a
whole lot of potential art to me! I made a few necklaces from bottle caps,
and then started thinking about what I could do if I had a lot of bottle
caps, maybe even hundreds or thousands of bottle caps.
So, my boyfriend and his family started saving me bottle caps. I got a few
from other friends. I started experimenting with different ways of
connecting them. You look at things differently when you have a lot of them:
in many ways, they become more interesting, more beautiful. You see
patterns of shapes and colors, and you begin to see patterns of consumption.
And then I got involved with the group Leave No Plastic Behind and their
plastic art challenge. I learned more about the impact of plastic on the
oceans, as well as the fact that bottle caps come right after cigarette
butts on the “Most Common Beach Litter” hit list.
All of this collecting, connecting, and consciousness-raising culminated in
the construction of this chandelier, called Drifter. It’s now on display in
the lobby of the office building next door to SCRAP off of MLK. The piece
is over 5 feet tall, and includes a long string of Christmas lights. I
haven’t counted how many bottle caps are in there, but it’s a lot, and it
was all collected over a relatively short five-month period from only a few
[Above, the chandelier constructed from bottle caps.]
Now, I’m in the process of collecting another big batch of bottle caps for
the creation of several more light fixtures. If you have plastic bottle
caps – any size, any color – from beverages, shampoo, household cleaners,
peanut butter, whatever – bring them on over when you drop by my place
during the Portland Open Studios tour. My demos will all be about encaustic
painting, but as for the conversation, well, all materials are welcome.
Below, Bridget’s collection of bottle caps.
To learn more about Bridget Benton’s work and classes, please visit her website at http://www.eyesaflame.com/.
You can visit Bridget and 99 other artists during Portland Open Studios weekend. To learn more about the event, visit http://www.portlandopenstudios.com/.
Above, Helen Hiebert making paper.
Helen Hiebert, Diane Jacobs, and Shu-Ju Wang are 3 members of an art collective who have been meeting and working together for several years. Their most recent collaboration, the installation For the Love of Food, was shown at Cedar Crest College in Pennsylvania earlier this year.
They are also participating in Portland Open Studios this year and have decided to coordinate their hands-on demonstrations. Visitors will have a chance to see the process of creating a print, starting from making paper from pulp to letterpress and silkscreen printing.
Start at Helen Hiebert’s studio (artist 49), where visitors are invited to make paper. From there, visitors can go on to Diane Jacobs’ studio (artist 44) and Shu-Ju Wang’s studio (artist 90) to see how text and images can be printed using letterpress and silkscreen printing techniques. You are encouraged to visit both Diane’s and Shu-Ju’s studios (in either order) to see how the two different printmaking methods can be combined to create a finished print.
Between the three, they will also be showing finished work that range from handmade paper, lanterns, prints, artist’s books, sculptures, paintings, photographs, cards and more.
They are also in 3 different regions of metro Portland – N Portland, NE Portland, and SW Portland, perfectly spaced for people doing the tour throughout the Portland metro area. Note that Helen’s and Diane’s studios are open on October 10 & 11 only, 10am-5pm; Shu-Ju’s studio is open October 10, 11, 17, and 18, 10am-5pm.
For more information about Portland Open Studios, visit the website at www.portlandopenstudios.com.
Diane Jacobs setting type…
And Shu-Ju Wang Gocco printing.
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 www.portlandopenstudios.com.
By Susan Gallacher-Turner
Joni Mitchell, chiseling out beauty.
As I stepped out of the car, it was obvious right away that a stone sculptor lived here. In the front courtyard was a pumice sculpture of a mother and child that radiated a loving connection mixed with free-spirited playfulness. This was one of two outdoor sculptures adorning Joni Mitchell’s home but there was much more in her backyard studio which she and her husband built themselves.
Through the double doors, this simple white studio held an amazing array of power tools, a kiln, and a hose connected to the air compressor housed in the garage. And it’s the tools that powered Joni’s interest in stone carving, without them Joni would have given up on stone. “In my first class, I only had a hammer and a very small chisel and I swore that I would never touch marble again, because it was too hard,” said Joni. But when Marlyhurst teacher, M.J. Anderson, a well-known stone sculptor, introduced Joni to power and air tools, Joni said, “Then I really loved it.”
Joni took me through her process step by step. First, she begins each piece by going through the stone for obvious flaws, carving off at least 1 inch of the stone surface to get rid of marks and imperfections. Then she uses her power tools to cut lines 1 inch apart, and uses her hammer and chisel to knock out the rough shape. After marking out the form with chalk, Joni puts on her safety gear including ear plugs, safety glasses, gloves, mask and hat and carves away using smaller power tools. From then on, the process becomes more about responding to the emerging shapes.
Joni described it as feeling her way through the stone, “It’s very tactile. I have to stop and use my hands to feel my way, using the small air chisel, I start carving the features in.” Joni changed to smaller and smaller diamond tip grinders and carved out the baby’s nose and lips. Joni said, “I do a lot of feeling and hand work.” She used a series of small stones in different textures to smooth out bumpy areas by hand. Then a variety of wet/dry sandpapers and compounds are used to polish the marble ending with a stone sealer to protect the stone.
It was easy to see the beauty of the marble when viewing any of Joni’s finished pieces. But how does Joni choose her stone? She said, “I usually go buy a piece of stone, sometimes for color or shape or posture, then I look at it for a while. With this piece of pink marble, I had it for a couple of years until I was ready to carve it. I could see the posture, very feminine and very fleshy and perfect for the mother and child and the relationship.”
Images of mothers and children abound in Joni’s work. As a mother of two, it was her loving memories of the special joy and connection with her young children that inspired Joni. Joni explained, “A lot of times what inspires me to make a piece is a moment in life that has really touched my heart. That’s why I work.” “I love the mother and child. I would do just babies, if I could.” About the inspiration behind the pink marble piece in process, Joni said, “It’s the way that the mother and child are physically connected.”
And it was that physical connection to the art making process that kept Joni working during a very difficult time. After losing both her brother and her son in a little over one year, it was the studio, the stone and a choice to be positive that helped her heal. “Art has really helped me a lot through some very hard things and that’s why I do it. I hope that when people look at my art it helps them, gives them a feeling of hope, feeling that things are ok,” said Joni.
Joni’s journey into art started with a correspondence course and ended with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Marylhurst University. In the process, she has worked in watercolor, acrylics and charcoal. But it was a clay sculpture class that fired her love of the three dimensional form and led her finally to stone. Joni said, “With sculpture, I just knew what to do, it might be anatomy training for the radiology work that I do, helped, but I loved it and I couldn’t stop doing it. I’ve always loved stone. I grew up as a child collecting pretty rocks. And I love the permanence of it when it’s done. I like the fact that I work on my pieces for months before they’re done.”
Marble sculpting was a process that took patience, focus and perseverance. And for Joni, it was a way to find answers to personal questions and a choice to see the beauty in life. Joni said, “It’s a very spiritual thing to me. I’ve always been that person to see the beauty and the beautiful things in life. In my heart I always wanted to sculpt something positive and beautiful.”
Below, Joni at work in her studio.
Joni has shown her work in the Beaverton Arts Commission show. Currently her work is being shown at the Kingstad Gallery, and will be in the Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts Show.
You can visit her this fall during the Portland Open Studios Tour October 11-12, 2008. Portland Open Studios is a self-directed tour of 98 artists workplaces located throughout the Portland Metro area. Tour Guides will be available at local outlets soon.
To see more of Joni Mitchell’s work visit her website at http://www.jonimitchellart.com.
To hear a podcast of the interview, please visit http://www.infopods.org; scroll down to the bottom to find the Joni Mitchell interview.
Portland Open Studios artists Lorna Nakell, Jennifer Mercede, and Kelly Neidig recently had an interesting exchange about the place of abstraction in contemporary art. Lorna conducted this as an interview with Jennifer and Kelly, and you can read it on Lorna’s blog, in this entry.
Portland Art Center presents:
The Family Dynamic
A family exhibition featuring large scale paintings by Portland Open Studios artist Lorna Nakell, sculptures by her husband Noah Nakell, oil paintings by Noah’s mother Susan Sumimoto, and photographs by his stepfather Chuck Nakell
Sept 6th – Sept 28th, 2007
Portland Art Center
32 NW 5th Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97209
Opening reception Sept 6th, 6 – 10pm
We asked Lorna to tell us a little bit about her working process, and this is what she says:
More Paint – More Water
by Lorna Nakell
Since starting in my new direction as an abstract painter about two years ago, I have gone from creating 22”x30” watercolor and mixed media paintings on paper to making these new 8’ x 12’ acrylic and mixed media paintings on canvas. The change of size and medium has been a challenge, but a rewarding one. Below is a description of my painting process:
My canvases are custom built. After they have been delivered to my studio, they are laid flat on the floor where they receive one coat of gesso and one coat of Golden’s absorbent ground. When they are fully dried, they are leaned upright against the wall where I begin to sketch out the design with pencil. Then charcoal stick is used to develop the lines and shapes creating the final under-drawing.
When the drawing is completed, canvases are laid back on the floor where they are dampened with water from a spray bottle. I then apply colored inks with a dropper and thinned acrylic paint in carefully placed splatters and drips. I alternate applying ink and paint careful to keep the surface constantly wet until the desired colors and blends are achieved. The wet canvases are then lifted carefully to allow the colors to run together in a slightly controlled fashion. Although some aspects of this background process are controlled, the paint tends to have a mind of its own, pooling together in unexpected ways. I never know exactly what it will look like until the entire surface has dried.
When the canvases have dried, they are leaned back against the wall where they are sealed with a fluid coat of acrylic medium to prevent the charcoal from rubbing off. After the medium has dried, the surfaces are ready for me to add painterly shapes and forms with acrylic paint, sparkly shapes with mica or glitter and other layers with tinted acrylic resin. Because my work is so process oriented, even though I might begin with a plan for each painting, I end up having to spontaneously work with the effects created by each step. This is exciting to me because it leads to surprising results. Only when all the colors and shapes seem to balance out and an overall mood is achieved do I consider a painting done. When finished, each painting receives a protective coat of varnish.
Above, Lorna working in her studio.
To find out more about the Portland Art Center, see http://www.portlandart.org/.
Columbia River Gallery presents:
Local Oil Landscapes by
Karen E. Lewis
August 3 – 31, 2007
Columbia River Gallery
305 E Columbia R. Highway
First Friday Artwalk August 3, 5-9
Below, Just Around the River Bend, oil on canvas, by Karen E. Lewis.
We asked Karen to talk a little about her work, and here’s what she says:
Gathering landscape material is my first step. I find inspiration on hikes and canoe trips, and painting en plein air in favorite places. I sketch directly on small (12 x 9) canvas, using a limited palette to mix all the colors I see. Painting on location forces me to simplify, distilling the scene into its most important elements, because within two hours, the light will have changed dramatically.
Although I take many photographs, my strongest impressions come from the plein air painting. Being there, my eye sees what the camera cannot. Time after time, I’ve painted a scene, putting in colors and shades that I saw. Bringing home sketch and photographs, I find that the camera faithfully recorded detailed shapes–the angles of a building, the multiple leaves on the trees–but all the colors seem to have averaged out into a mere approximation of the sensations I experienced. Being there, you notice the warms within cool shadows, the cools at the tops of trees, the dancing colors in the water. You notice the color of the sky. As you continue to look, you become aware of atmosphere, of a hint of breeze. You put these into the sky, and it becomes more sky-alive.
In the studio, these on-location paintings expand into larger works. Searching through my photos and sketches, I select and design new compositions, using my imagination to freely change the design. I manipulate the digital photographs on the computer, expanding parts, creating composites, emphasizing certain colors, de-emphasizing others. The palette of the plein-air sketch informs the studio choices. On my palette in the studio, I enrich colors even further, juxtapose contrasting hues to enhance atmosphere and mood.
The new composition goes onto the canvas in brush-painted lines, with sketchy shading for the darks. Then I can evaluate the light and dark pattern one last time before I begin actual painting. Each painting develops in a slightly different way. Sometimes I cover the entire canvas alla prima, incorporating all the color and texture the first time around. Other paintings build in layers, enabling me to separate complements and create rougher textures.
My favorite subjects are rivers, lakes, waterfalls, clouds, any form of water.
Karen’s studio will be open October 20-21 through Portland Open Studios, where you can see more of her work and artistic process.
For more information about Columbia River Gallery, see http://www.columbiarivergallery.com.
To see more of Karen’s work and learn about her classes, see http://www.karenlewisstudio.com.
Portland City Hall presents:
Corporate Waste Turned into Art
July 1 – July 20
Portland City Hall
1221 SW 4th Ave, Portland, Oregon
Opening reception First Thursday, July 5 from 5:00 – 7:00pm
Artists gleaned materials from company storerooms to make commissioned artworks. It is a great way for businesses to support artists and it keeps trash out of the landfill. Funding for the project comes from the businesses and from Cracked Pots.
The organizers of this program used the 2006 Tour Guide to select half of the artists. Mar Goman, Susan Levine, and Dawn McConnell were in last year’s tour. Trina Hesson and Bonnie Meltzer are 2007 Portland Open Studios artists and were also in the 2006 tour.
Below, the 4 sides of a sculpture by Bonnie Meltzer created from the castoffs supplied by Pavelcomm.
We asked artist Bonnie Meltzer to talk about her experience of creating this particular piece for the exhibit, and she generously contributes not only her own story but also that of Trina Hesson’s:
Trina Hesson, a sculptor who makes colorful wooden and found object portraits, took cutoff ends of 2 x 4’s and 2 x 6’s at Hampton Lumber. The pieces are the result of cutting boards to the size needed. There are always leftovers. She decided to make a wall piece made up of wooden wafers to be used like mosaics. She sliced the ends of the lumber like you would slice salami and then glued the “salami” on to a board. By using the ends of the wood rather than the sides she could make use of the more heavily patterned grain. She further intensified the patterning by rubbing thin paint into some of the slices. Others she painted with opaque paint. The wafers fit together to make a bigger than life expressive portrait.
Above, detail of Trina Hesson’s sculpture at the exhibit.
About her own piece, Bonnie adds:
Talks with other artists in the program revealed that artists were having some of the same problems and joys that I was having about making art with an unusual array of materials. It is always good for artists to be thrown off their comfort zones. Unless, of course, it is the artist it is happening to or more specifically me. Well frankly, it is uncomfortable. Until the magic happens. This is a short story about how the uncomfortable became Ok and even good. I am used to working with computer parts and a variety of found objects. I usually chose them for either symbolism or because they are just beautiful. The object of this project was to mainly use what each company had. When I walked into the warehouse at Pavelcomm, a phone and networking company, there was a mountain of cartons in the middle of the floor. These were things ready for the scrap heap — old models no longer sold, broken parts, or parts with no place to fit. As I pawed through the boxes and boxes of phones the first dilemma was what to take. What things would give me ideas. What do I have too much of already and shouldn’t take. I did not need one more circuit board. The curly cords looked interesting, and so did other cords with plastic connectors that I thought could be incorporated into a crocheted wire wall piece with dangling phone fringe. I drove away with a car full of things, mostly phone receivers,cords, and designs in my head..
In the studio I emptied the boxes on the floor…what to do, what to do? Nothing was particularly gorgeous, but I had a lot of each thing. To complicate matters, I dropped by the company to measure a wall and the owner asked if I could do a free standing sculpture…SURE, I said. So I emptied my head and filled it with 3d visions. I spent a day playing with phones fitting them together like children’s blocks. There is hardly a flat surface on a phone so two phones could be glued together. I guess that is because our heads aren’t flat. New idea! Great, I thought. I can crochet around the cords and make the piece self supporting so it could stand up. Bonnie Pavell generously offered to have a sculpture stand made if I needed one. Without belaboring my trials, tribulation and frustration the piece was just not working. Yikess, 2 weeks wasted. Back to the drawing board and the phone pile. (some other artists i talked to had the same experience of abandoning their first attempt).
Break Through…Two sculpture stands that have been in my way for quite a while because the base wasn’t big enough to accomodate my sculpture became the structure for a shrine to the phone. it is an obelisk with operators taking your call on its sides. I collaged yellow and white page; took phones apart for the goodies inside; glued, screwed and crocheted parts together. Painted phones; and went back to one of the earlier phone structures and figured out how to get it together for the top. I am happy that I abandoned my first idea for this later better one. I have found my equilibrium and am comfortable again, until the next challenge. Got to go, the phone is ringing.
For more information about this exhibit, see http://www.commissionersam.com/greenartshow.
You can see more of Bonnie’s work at http://www.bonniemeltzer.com.
And you can see more of Trina Hesson’s work at http://www.trinahesson.com.
Guardino Gallery presents:
new ceramic sculptures by
May 31-June 26
2939 NE Alberta, Portland, OR 97211
Below, Poisson, 2007, clay, 21″ x 19″ x 6″
In 2006, Sara Swink established Clay Circle Studio in West Linn where she creates her ceramic sculptures and teaches studio classes in clay as well as creative process workshops. Her exhibit at Guardino is stunning and has been very well received; there is still time to see the show if you have not done so. She will be participating in the Portland Open Studios Tour for the second time in October, 2007.
Sara graciously gave a private studio tour this morning to talk about her creative process.
At first glance, her work appears whimsical and light hearted. Her use of animal imagery and human figures creates combinations that are sometimes unexpected and sometimes as familiar as a mermaid. But as she says about Poisson, her fish-headed woman, “don’t be fooled.” Keep looking, and you will see mouths, gaping, exposing well formed teeth; eyes, closed, half open, downcast, or hidden behind swim goggles; surfaces, encrusted with inner thoughts, or poisonous octopus suckers, and you will know that it’s an open invitation to explore Sara’s psyche, as well as your own.
Perched between working and playing, she improvises and she creates collages, doodles, writing and sketching that she has been forming into books for many years. Through this half play, half work, she delves deeply into her conscious and unconscious self. From this beginning of images and texts on paper, through the touch of hands on wet clay, to the transformation by pigments and intense heat, a personal narrative emerges from her kiln.
She returns to these books again and again to seek meaning, understanding, and inspiration. These books are not only a treasure trove of ideas and a personal document, they are artistic objects in their own right. Like the sculptures that are the end results of this process, these books are also symbols of the connection between her (and our) inner and outer realities.
Above, a few of Sara’s working notebooks. Below, the back half of her spacious studio.
Visiting an artist’s studio is always a privilege, and Sara is a generous host who is happy to share her working methods through Portland Open Studios tours and through her creative process workshops.
For more information about Guardino Gallery, see http://www.guardinogallery.com.
To learn more of Sara’s work and her classes, see http://www.claycircle.com.
Mary Lou Zeek Gallery presents:
In the Garden
11 acrylic paintings with collage by
June 5 – June 30th, 2007
Mary Lou Zeek Gallery
335 State Street, Salem, Oregon
Above, Late Winter, acrylic and collage by Marcy Baker
We asked Marcy to talk a little bit about her work, and to give us a ‘mini tour’ of her monotype printing process, and here’s what she says:
Inspiration is found in the rhythms of my neighborhood and in graceful relationships between natural and man-made structures.
Relief printing blocks are hand cut in Victorian-era textile designs and traditional Celtic motifs. Stencils are inspired by seventeenth century chintz fabrics, as well as my own botanical drawings. Using these and other tools – anything that will create interesting marks and texture – I apply acrylic paint or oil based printing ink in overlapping patterns, an influence from my background in fabric design. Many layers are built up in this way, with each layer informing the next, and much of what is painted is eventually covered up – but its presence is integral to the final piece. Collage elements – added in between and on top of the layers – include architectural and botanical line drawings from my backyard, and relief prints using the same blocks that have been stamped into the paint. I also draw into the surface with charcoal and graphite – I like the juxtaposition of random, intuitive mark making with orderly repeat patterns.
When engaged in my neighborhood I feel an intriguing play of comfort and anticipation. This balance is what I seek in my work.
And on making monotypes, she adds:
I pulled my first monotype fifteen years ago and was hooked – spontaneous, colorful, immediate – creating monotypes is great fun.
To prepare for a new series of prints, stencils are designed using botanical drawings from my neighborhood and backyard garden, and with inspiration from seventeenth century chintz fabrics and Victorian-era textile designs. I also carve printing blocks in similar motifs, and create relief plates by drawing on foam sheets. I use these tools to build many thin layers of oil based ink on a Plexiglas plate before making one transfer to paper with an etching press. Interesting marks and texture appear when a printing block is lifted off the Plexiglas plate. Mysterious things happen when ink is inadvertently transferred to the plate from the back of a stencil.
After a print is pulled there is a ghost of that image left on the plate’s surface that I incorporate into the composition of the following piece. This can create lovely contrasts as the plate is reworked with some areas left untouched, revealing fragments of history from the previous image.
For my most recent monotype series I began by first making quick line drawings on the plate with litho crayon, then building layers of ink on top of the drawings. I also add collage elements to the print once it is pulled and dried – mostly these are line drawings inspired by my colorful and lively backyard. I like the juxtaposition of intuitive mark making against the repeat patterns created by stencils and printing blocks.
For more information about Mary Lou Zeek Gallery, see http://www.zeekgallery.com/.
To see more of Marcy’s work, see http://www.marcybaker.com/.