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By Careen Stoll

A visit to Katy McFadden’s studio and garden overlooking Tryon Creek State Park seems like dropping into a forest dreamworld.   McFadden makes prints and ceramic sculpture: her interaction with the natural world yields figures in the garden that seem more to have come there of their own will because they found it home rather than placed there by a human with a plan.  The figures are sometimes animated with the spirit of another sentient being- a fox, a bird or the creatures of the sea, and standing in groups as friends or fellow travelers.

portrait of Katy McFadden by Tom Emerson

Katy McFadden photo Tom Emerson

McFadden spent her childhood playing in the ebb and flow of the tides on the coast of New Jersey.  The sense of motion between spaces has deeply influenced her work over the decades that she has been making, teaching, and travelling.  Boundaries between sea and land are spaces of constant change, as are the perceived boundaries between animal, plant and human.  Her sense of human connection is of a similarly porosity.  She says, of travel: “I love to travel because I see the commonality between people as opposed to a difference- the core is the same- we want to be accepted, be loved, have family around us.  The things that make us different are just social constructs…. [People can see the] movement in a piece [of art], and can respond to it without an understanding of who your are or where you come from.”

Transitions, Stoneware, 30"

As a fellow clayworker, the author is well aware of the labor involved in creating on the human scale at which McFadden works.  I am amazed that such a beautiful and strong but small woman manages to make these figures.  Most of them are fired at her studio in a large kiln that runs on natural gas.  But she sometimes opts to fire them in a wood-firing kiln, an extremely labor-intensive process. I asked her how she does it, and her work ethic in general.  She explains that sometimes she just goes into the studio and rolls out slabs.  Then she’s put herself into a situation that’s made it more fertile to create, and the muse comes.  About her work ethic, she replies in jest, “I don’t know what else to do with myself”, a re-iteration of an earlier comment that “art transcends the particular, and there is nothing else worth doing”.

Recent Work by Katy McFadden

Teaching she calls “the left hand”, the one that passes the nourishment of process and understanding to the next generation.  Process is revealed as a “point on a line of non-ownership”, echoing her artist statement: “we are voices for a short period of time”.  Her classes are explorations of the language of clay process, with the objective that students can translate an understanding of process to any other material.  She taught in Cape Cod for years.  Now she teaches at Clackamas Community College.

Katy McFadden’s studio is number two on the map.  She participated in Portland Open Studios years ago and then took a break.   We’re excited that she has decided to open her studio again this year.  You can see more of her work at katymcfadden.com.

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by Morgan Madison

Liv unveils a fresh print in her studio.

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, Woodcut Print, Edition of 30, 8” x 10”, 2010

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.

Egress, Woodcut Print, Edition of 7, 14” x 20”, 2010

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.

By Shu-Ju Wang

A visit to Martin Waugh’s studio is a singular experience.

The art being made is invisible to the naked eye for its size and the speed at which it’s traveling. In the time that it takes a water droplet to fall 10 inches and a second water droplet to follow right behind, the camera and multiple flashes must be synchronized to  catch the droplets in action at the precise moment. Timing is everything and it’s measured in 1/1000 of a second.

Below, Good Catch.

Martin Waugh is a physicist and engineer, a tinkerer, builder, an inventor, artist, and is on his way to become a noun as well. A “Martin Waugh” is something that people refer to when they talk about one of his images. You may have already seen his work without realizing it–he has created commercial and design work for advertising, magazines, corporations and television. And he lives among us, right here in Portland!

Above, Narcissi.

While high speed photography has been with us for over a century, first made famous with Muybridge’s photographs of the horse galloping, and then later Edgerton’s image of the bullet piercing an apple, the advent of digital photography revolutionized the field. Timing became much more precise and minutely adjustable. And with the camera tethered to and controlled by a computer, you can see the images immediately and continue to fine tune until you capture the exact moment, whether it’s time of impact or 3/1000 second past impact.

Having this level of control with his equipment, Martin is able to experiment and play with other variables, such as different liquids used or different coloring agents. He has photographed cream dropping into coffee and he can tell you which kind of dyes changes the water behavior (aniline dyes) and which muddies up the water (food dyes).

But hold on, not so fast, for all is not so easily said and done.

While Martin has built a high speed photography studio to control timing and lighting, and to reduce vibration, there is much that is beyond his control. Take water, for example. Even with the water that comes out of his tap, there are many parameters that influence the outcome that can be out of his control–minute changes in water temperature, ambient temperature, changes in the amount of water in his catch basin. And although he didn’t say so, I imagine the hardness or softness of the water matters, and that probably changes in minuscule amounts constantly.

Above, Martin setting up his rig and camera, getting ready for another shot.

It is clear that Martin finds pleasure and joy in these unknowns; it’s what gives him room for play and opportunity for chance encounters. And from these unknowns, a wonderful world of motion, color, form and science are captured and presented to the audience.

Martin has the kind of humor and innocence that one associates with a creative genius who doesn’t have a clue that he is one…although I think he might be catching on. Having been a photographer since junior high, he always thought the real photographers were those other people who were doing this or that; in other words, somebody other than him, doing something other than what he was doing. Until he realized that he was making a real contribution to the field of high speed photography–mainly, the use of backlighting to photograph transparent subjects.

And in another first that he’s eager to try–high speed photography of DNA suspended in water. The long strands of DNA creates a ‘stickiness’ in the liquid that Martin expects will change the behavior of his liquid sculptures in unpredictable and exciting ways.

You can visit Martin’s studio during Portland Open Studios on October 9, 10, 16 & 17. Martin is artist number 21.

You can also see some of his work at the Art Institute of Portland, 1122 NW Davis Street; the exhibit is up from September 2 through 30.

To see more of Martin Waugh’s work online, please visit his website at http://www.liquidsculpture.com/.

To learn more about Portland Open Studios, please visit http://www.portlandopenstudios.com/.

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.

Conductor

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.”

If Dreams Were Horses, Beggars Would Ride

“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

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

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 Shu-Ju Wang

When you look up into the night sky, you see the beautiful light of the stars, light that was emitted thousands, millions or billions of years ago, in a time before people, before earth.

The light from this distant past is just now reaching your eyes, passing through your cornea, passing through your pupil, your crystalline lens, hitting the retina. The signal is now traveling on the optic nerve and finally arrives at your brain. The brain receives the signals, interprets and makes sense of what it sees.

And our ancestors, seeking to understand what they saw, created the constellations in which heroes, villains, lovers and seekers live out their lives in full view of us mortals.

Fast forward a few thousand years.

You’re in Jesse Reno’s studio, looking at his work. And that can make you feel old. I mean ancient, like a few thousand years old. Seeing his work is to know what our ancestors experienced when they looked up into the night sky and saw epic poems and morality tales written in starlight.

Like a shaman, Jesse Reno can take you to a vastly different time and place. And like a shaman, you can imagine earth’s energy coming up through his feet, his legs and his torso. And then through his arms and hands, paints and pigments spill out, forming the new constellations of an alternate universe.

Below, Reborn, acrylic, oil pastel and pencil on wood.

As a child, Jesse dreamed of selling his drawings for $5 each. He thought he would have it made if he could just do that. On the way to growing up, he got side tracked. First, there was a stint as an would-be offset printer, and another as a would-be rock star. At one of his rock concerts, he met a band mate’s little brother’s best friend, a painter. The two connected and Jesse started to paint in Chris Giordani’s studio.

The first year, Jesse created 100 paintings. Using very simple geometric images of circles, lines, Xs, half bodies and figures, he played with colors and techniques, experimenting all the while thinking about the action and energy of painting.

He painted each panel over and over again, each time saving a little window so that he could remember what it once was. After a while, the simple forms and shapes acquired meanings, so he put them on his body to better remember them.

Over the years, his work evolved–animal characters started to appear and his art became more complex in imagery and concept. To step up his effort to remember the past lives of the paintings after so much layering and obliteration, Jesse started to write down his thoughts on the back of the panels.

guardian of keys protector of kings granting black dreams the collector soul collector keeps the spirit the order of dreams the value of freedom the value of a dollar he burnt all his money to unearth his heart then he became locking keys deep beneath golden pyramids gumming the keyholes swallowing dollars like gum drops that was all just yesterday now he’s just an awkward boy bouncing skeletons while wearing a dress hoping someone will see things the way he does

Above, Guardian of Keys Protector of Kings, acrylic pastel, pencil, collage and driftwood.

It should come as no surprise that Jesse had wanted to study archeology and loves The American Museum of Natural History in New York City. And it should also come as no surprise that when ebay came along, Jesse was able to fulfill his childhood dream of selling his work at ‘$5 each,’ although it probably wasn’t for $5…

Over the years, he has garnered the attention of collectors worldwide and, as a result, has travelled and exhibited his work internationally, most recently in France.

Portlanders are in luck–come October, you can see for yourselves how this rising international star go about creating his work in his workspace. Jesse Reno is artist #71 in the Portland Open Studios 2010 tour. Please see http://www.portlandopenstudios.com for more information about the event.

You can see more of Jesse’s work on his website at http://www.jessereno.com/. And for the month of August, Jesse is showing at Local35 (see http://local35.blogspot.com/), with a live painting event on Sunday, August 15 at the Hawthorne Street Fair.

Below, Jesse & his dog in his studio.

By Shu-Ju Wang

It’s in the genes, both literally and metaphorically, when you talk about art and science and their roles in Kindra Crick’s life and work.

From her grandfather, a neuroscientist, she inherited the drive for scientific inquiry. From her grandmother, a figurative painter, she inherited her need for artistic expression and visual conceptualization.

And from this genetic blueprint of her life, Kindra has created the two strands of her work–art & science–intertwined like a double helix.

Below, Ties III, Encaustic mixed media and string.

Kindra Crick graduated from Princeton University with a AB in Molecular Biology. Deciding that another 8 years for a PhD in Molecular Biology wasn’t in the works for her, she chose instead to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she earned a Certificate in Painting before moving to Portland to become a full time artist working in painting and printmaking.

Using art as her medium to explore the world around her while employing the analytical skills and methods of a scientist, Kindra balances her urge to explain, to measure, to search for absolutes, with the more spontaneous and nuanced gestures of experimentation, play and intuitive response.

Starting with building and preparing her substrates where precision and timing are important, to the founding thoughts for that particular piece–perhaps a statement based on scientific experiments or maybe a query into something science has yet to answer–she creates the constraints for her work. From there, she allows herself the luxury of not having to explain, to simply respond to the parameters she has created.

But as she works, more often than not, her intuitive responses cover and sometimes obliterate her original marks and intentions. And that brings us to the philosophical question that interests Kindra–after it has been obliterated, does that original meaning still exist? And how much does one need to call attention to this original intention? How does the viewer go about discovering the seed of an idea? And finally, how does understanding and perception affect what they see?

And how does one go about creating a painting about perception?

In a recent series of work, Kindra investigates how the heart became a symbol for love. How is it that we have come to perceive the anatomical heart as the seat of love? In another on-going series, drawings of eyes are captured in jars–much like biological specimens–expressing identifiable human emotions that challenge the viewers to decode. Our ability or inability to perceive these emotions fascinates Kindra.

Above, Emotion Elixir: Desire I, encaustic mixed media and string.

Kindra discovered encaustic a few years back, but it wasn’t until she built her own studio in her backyard, with great ventilation, that she was able to really delve into the  medium. And she has found home.

The medium allows her to do all the things she loves–to obliterate and to rediscover, to embed drawings and watercolors, to incise, to write. And most importantly, as a mother with a toddler, to allow her to work when she has just snippets of time here and there. The medium is simply infinitely reworkable by introducing heat. The tools and paints can be left to dry, and to spring back to life when heated. Likewise, work in progress  can be worked & re-worked without time constraints.

Below, a corner of Kindra’s studio.

Kindra Crick has been an active member of the Portland Open Studios board for the last three years. And hidden from public view, she has worked with a graphics designer to create the beautiful Portland Open Studios Tour Guides these past three years. Both the participating artists and the art-loving public owe a big “thank you” to this multi-talented artist!

Kindra is artist #58 in the 2010 Portland Open Studios tour. For more information about Portland Open Studios, please see our website at http://www.portlandopenstudios.com.

You can see more of Kindra’s work on her website at http://www.kindracrick.com/. She is also part of the International Women Artists’ Exhibition at Littman Gallery in August:

Her Presence in Colours IX

Littman Gallery, PSU
1825 SW Broadway, Smith Building
August 5 – 27
Reception on August 5, 5-7pm

Please see this page for more information.

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.

Scott Conary at work in his studio. Photo by Aaron Rogosin

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 Shu-Ju Wang

“When it comes to me talking about my work, it’s so simple, I just love capturing emotion through an expression or through movement. Evoking the essence through light and shadow, through as little information as possible.”

— Alexandra Becker-Black

Nothing sums up Alexandra Becker-Black’s work and her being as succinctly as that. She is a woman of few words, colors and lines, just enough to say what she needs to say and to give you enough room to interpret and imagine on your own.

From her chosen subject matter to her art-making process, all extraneous materials have been stripped away until there is nothing left but light and shadow. Then very slowly, she retrieves them, one by one, but only as necessary.

Apparition by Alexandra Becker-Black, in graphite.

Becker-Black has been obsessed with the human form since childhood. One of her earliest memories is that of her drawing a woman’s face. From there, she became interested in the figure. But her artistic calling was not revealed to her in quite that straight-forward a manner as that.

At the beginning, her work was more about the fashion figure where subtle movements, emotions and essence were cloaked beneath layers of clothing and accessories. Then, through her study of yoga, she became interested in anatomy, musculature, and their beauty when in motion.

So she stripped away the camouflage, decorations and colors, and started working with the nude figure in motion, in graphite or in neutral watercolors. Using a camera, live models, lights and a blank white background, she captures those movement that come and go in the blink of an eye, that can imply emotions and actions that statically posed models can not.

Once recorded, she works with the still images but continues to purge from the already naked form, choosing only what she needs and adding only what is absolutely necessary. You see muscles tense and strain against gravity; you see figures in serene repose; you see energy suddenly released when a small flock of birds fly out of a woman’s opened hands. All of this is conjured up in front of your eyes even as a torso fades to gray or a leg disappears, creating work that is ethereal and luminously beautiful, haunting, evocative and complex.

Beseech by Alexandra Becker-Black, in watercolor.

Although ‘simple’ appears again and again in Becker-Black’s own description of her work, there is truly nothing simple in her work or her method. As anyone who has tried to simplify their lives can attest, it is a difficult and complex process to come to an understanding of what we truly need. And at only three years out of Rhode Island School of Design where Becker-Black received her BFA, she has achieved a great deal in her understanding of the often repeated but rarely understood phrase ‘Less is More.

Alexandra Becker-Black is one of two recipients of the Kimberly Gales Scholarship for Young Artists this year. She is #42 in the roster of 100 artists on the 2010 Portland Open Studios tour. During the 2nd and 3rd weekends of October, you can watch her create her work in her lovely tree-nestled studio in NW Portland.

In the mean time, you can visit her website at http://www.alexandrabeckerblack.com/, or see a few pieces in person during the month of July at Backspace Cafe:

Backspace Cafe
115 NW 5th
Please check website for hours: http://www.backspace.bz

8 Women Show
July 1 – August 3
Opening reception: July 1, 6-11pm

A worktable, with a painting in progress...

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.

Elisabeth Walden at the Bite Studio. photo by Aaron Rogosin

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.

"African Art Gallery" from the Yale Art Gallery Suite. Aquatint with Chine Colle, 8 by 10

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.

"Stiles Courtyard" early 2009. Aquatint with a rollover, 4 by 5in.`

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


Above, gallery installation by Mary Bennett.

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.

Mary Bennett installation
Above, installation view of the Dialogue Project.

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.

Mary Bennett installation 2
Above, detail of installation view.

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:

Book Power!
23 Sandy Gallery
June 3 — June 26, 2010
Artist Reception on Friday, Jun 4, 5-8pm
http://www.23sandy.com/

Portland Open Studios artist, Helen Hiebert was awarded a 2010 Regional Arts & Culture Council Project Grant. With this grant, Helen will produce a suite of six handmade paper and string drawings in an edition of ten which are based on images of knots. Each collection of six drawings will be housed in a clamshell box commissioned by a well-known box maker and letterpress printer, Sandy Tilcock of Lone Goose Press in Eugene. One suite will be framed and exhibited along with other artwork by Helen at 23 Sandy Gallery in November 2010. In addition, Helen will conduct a free lecture, demonstration and papermaking workshop.

‘Double Knot’ by Helen Hiebert
The installation called the ‘Mother Tree’ is a life-size handmade paper dress created on site at the Portland Building from February to March. Day after day, the artist and a sewing circle will gather in the Portland Building and crochet more strands which will pile up on the floor, filling the area as a tree’s roots would fill the ground beneath it. The strands, as they cascade to the floor, will turn into roots symbolizing the mother as a provider and nurturer throughout human development. Helen’s installation is being created from now until March 2010 as part of the Portland Building’s Installation Space program funded by RACC.


‘Mother Tree’ by Helen Hiebert

Stop by and view the installation before the 10×10 City Hall show, Thursday, March 4th. The Portland Building, 1120 S.W. 5th Avenue is open until 6 pm weekdays.

By Shu-Ju Wang

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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.
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By Susan Gallacher-Turner
Podcast audio interview available at http://www.voicesoflivingcreatively.com

“I have done a lot of different things, but I think that’s the way my art developed,” says Margie Lee. “It’s not just a straight path, that’s for sure.”

Margie at work in her studio

Margie at work in her studio

Margie Lee’s life path has led her across the country and Europe, and across the fields of geology, literature and art. Margie’s interest in art started in second grade when she tagged along to her older brother’s private art lessons, “I was very encouraged by my brother who was a painter. It was a very rich environment, all the teachers were from the college,” Margie explains. Her early schooling in Bellingham, Washington, was at the Campus School, a lab school associated with Western Washington University.

Margie’s interests grew to include math and science in high school and it was there her path took a turn that led her back to art. “I got kicked out of French class, and put in art which was horrible because all the weird kids were in that class,” Margie laughs. “But I started doing my sketching. I liked to draw figures and fashion illustration. The teacher noticed and said I think you should go into this…so I kept that in my mind.”

Fashion illustration was Margie’s first career choice, but with the advice of her mom, and her interest in science, she went to Western Washington University getting a BA in Geology but right after graduation her path took another turn. “I worked for one day, and I got fired,” says Margie. “So that weekend, some friends and I went to Carmel. It was so beautiful, and I wanted to know who lived here, and they said artists.” That’s when Margie realized, “I don’t think Geology is for me. I think I’d better go into art.
So I started that path.”

Seeing her figure drawing and painting as characters, someone suggested she look into working in costume design. Since there were only a few places in San Francisco that hired costume designers, she took another suggestion and headed across the country getting a job working as a wardrobe mistress in New York. It was there, resident playwright Lanford Wilson, asked her to do the graphics for the theater. That’s when Margie started taking classes at The Art Students League.

“I studied printmaking,” says Margie. “Then I met an artist named Ari and he said why don’t you try oil. I was very frightened of oil but I tried it and I just got hooked on oil painting.” Her classes didn’t lead her to graphic design for the theater, but into the fine art world instead. Margie describes her path, “I had a few exhibits in New York, went back to Bellingham and had some more exhibits, then I won a Purchase Prize at the Anacortes Art Festival and I used that to go to Europe.”

Margie went back to New York after Europe and met her husband, a writer. From there, they went to San Diego, where Margie painted and her husband wrote a book. A move to Boston led her back to college, this time to study another love, literature. After getting her masters in English and American Literature from Harvard, Margie started writing. Making art and writing was a balancing act according to Margie, “It’s hard to do both. Because, all this time I’m doing different jobs to make a living, I could not possibly do both. When I say balance, I mean I’ll do writing for 4 years and art for 3 years.”

Margie’s worked at a variety of jobs over the years including UPS loader, telephone survey researcher, fish cleaner, Burger King cashier and bookstore clerk. But it was her last job that finally allowed her to combine her unique skills. Working at the Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Margie did graphics and art. “I did a lot of charts and maps,” explains Margie. “I mainly wanted to do illustrations for the features section. My art was being used, not in fashion illustration but in this character study way. I did it all from memory and on photo shop. I get them all out of my head, my imagination. You have to have an imagination for that, that’s why they want an artist because the artist can do something they can’t get from a photograph.”

Describing her painting process Margie says, “I start with a blank piece of paper or canvas. I just start putting paint on it, sometimes I have an idea in my mind and sometimes I’m just putting paint on it. I’ll see what’s on the canvas. If I see something exciting, I’ll just go with it.”

It’s her intuition and imagination that fuels her creative process now more than ever. Whether it’s writing poetry, creative non-fiction, painting or her newest passion, video, Margie is involved in characters, words and stories.

This year in addition to being on the Portland Open Studios Tour, Margie is on the board and produced a video about other Portland Open Studios artists. As she learned about how other artists work, she learned more about her own work as well, “It’s just amazing what these artists have in their backgrounds. You’re going into a studio with someone who’s practically spent their whole life on something and what a wealth of information. I was just amazed at the biographies and process.”

While filming artist Bill Park painting, Margie recalls he said, “And now, it’s getting really ugly and that’s just where I want to be.” Margie agrees, “That’s just the perfect point to be in art, to be creative, when you’ve just lost everything and you have nothing more to lose.”

Margie’s never at a loss for work these days, dividing her time between her solo studio work, Five Windows Studio, her poetry and creative non-fiction groups, video work and Portland Open Studios. Margie’s life and art have taken many turns along the way but there is a common thread to her intuitive path, “There are just so many projects that I want to do. As an artist, my number one thing is experimentation and always something new.”

You can visit Margie’s studio and watch her at work next weekend October 17 and 18th during the Portland Open Studios Tour. Tour Guides are available at Art Media, New Seasons, Powell’s and our webiste.

By Shu-Ju Wang

Jason Kappus is full of contradictions. A natural-born story-teller bent on making non-narrative art; a painter who thinks of himself a writer; and a gifted portrait artist who can’t help but create non-objective, abstract work.

Below, Ode, by Jason Kappus
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Jason Kappus is a standout in other ways too. As children, almost everyone draws—that’s what we do because we have no other means of visual communication until we learn how to write. And once we acquire the skill of the written language, many give up drawing all together, leaving behind our colorful crayon lines and forms that perhaps only a parent can love.

But Jason wasn’t going to have it that way—before he could write, he dictated children’s action adventure stories to his parents (who wrote them down), and Jason illustrated them. And as a teen, he taught himself how to do portraits using graphite as the drawing medium and fashion magazines as sources . Before long, he was making technically excellent, realistic portraits. But perhaps because he was doing it on his own, without the guidance of a mature artist, he couldn’t take it to the next level. He couldn’t figure out how he could use his technical skills to create expressive work, and without the expressive component, these realistic portraits became an exercise in frustration. Impatient with how-to books and with interest and talent elsewhere, he gave up painting and returned to writing.

After moving to California and enrolling in film school to study screenwriting, he quickly ran out of money and dropped out of school, and found himself working as a lighting technician in the film industry.

It was during this time that Jason started painting again and discovered Elmer Bischoff, an abstract expressionist who returned to figurative work. The trajectory fascinated Jason—he saw in Bischoff’s path a possible way for himself to move forward. That he could use abstraction as a way of learning the painting medium without having to achieve specific goals. That he could return to figurative work with this new skill set.

But that never happened. Jason discovered that he appreciated abstract art, that he enjoyed the ability to express himself with shapes and colors. In abstraction, he finds “…a viewer has no way to judge whether the abstracts are accurate, or even if they are relevant to my initial sketch or thought, that since there is no automatic gauge to judge them by that if someone enjoys them then I have achieved a greater accomplishment.”

And although Jason hadn’t said so, I think that it is not a coincidence that he found success in painting after working first as a lighting technician. After all, the organic, luminous forms in his paintings shimmer like they have been painted with gelled lights. Each scene is orchestrated and colors carefully chosen to pulsate against and melt into each other, creating a beat, a rhythm. Using a time-consuming technique known as glazing, colors and forms are slowly built up with layers and layers of paint until the proper intensity and luminosity are achieved. The images might imply looking up at the sky, peering through the microscope or perhaps looking through dense brush, but glow they always do.

To see more of Jason’s work, visit his website at http://anonymousphenomena.blogspot.com/.

You can visit Jason and 99 other artists during the 2009 Portland Open Studios tour, October 10, 11, 17, and 18, 10am-5pm. To learn more about Portland Open Studios, visit http://www.portlandopenstudios.com. Tour guides are available at New Seasons, Art Media and other retail outlets listed on the website.

Below, a corner of Jason’s studio, with new work in progress and also older, portrait work
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By Shu-Ju Wang

Kate Krider had a recurring dream—trapped in a house suspended above a body of water, she was about to fall through the floor into the churning waves below where ‘evil’ lurked. The waves splashed and slapped, and Kate was afraid.

One night, she finally did fall through that floor, and found herself falling upon the ‘waves’ in the raked gravel of a Japanese garden. It was beautiful, peaceful, and delightful.

She knew she had to paint this image, and the dream has never returned.

***

Below, Kate Krider’s first painting, that of her falling through the house into the ‘waves’ below.

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As an artist, Kate Krider has always known what interested her. The signs of civilization that give us comfort—whether it’s a house, a cairn, a spirit dwelling or a holy object—form a continuous thread from her days as paper-maker to the mid-career artist of today, working in painting and 3-dimensional collages.

But at the same time, that other sign of civilization, water—both comforting and menacing—is also evident in her work. That water is absolutely necessary in the art of paper-making and paper-casting balanced against her struggles and fears of water in her dreams. Or that she loves to paint cairns of rocks made smooth by water, precariously balanced and reaching up to the sky.

Her travels to Vietnam in 2001 served to heighten her interests when she instantly connected with Vietnamese paintings of houses on water and the ideas of spirit houses. And she has been painting houses on water and making spirit houses elevated on stilts or ball feet ever since.

Although Kate considers herself to be a self-taught painter, she has a formal arts background with an MFA in Mixed Media from JFK University in California. Looking through her portfolio of her paper-casting pieces (her specialization in graduate school), the themes of ‘house’ and ‘water’ were clearly present then. Paper-making and casting eventually gave way to painting and 3-dimensional collages as she found her paper-casting more and more commercialized and less personally and artistically satisfying. But as she switched mediums, the threads of house, home and water continued.

Family, home, and finding home are the big themes in my work,” Kate says. I also see that looking for that point between comfort and uncertainty being an important aspect of her work. She puts the water above the stilts; she makes the house with an invisible floor, or a floor covered in undecipherable writings; and finally, her anything goes attitude when it comes to making spirit houses. There’s a spirit house for Keith Richards, for example, covered in guitar picks for roofing materials.

In recent months, Kate has focused on making 3-dimensional collages based on cigar boxes. But perhaps you won’t be surprised to find that house, water, and spiritual places play an important role there too!

Below, a recent 3-dimensional collage based on a cigar box.

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To see more of Kate Krider’s work, visit her website at http://katekrider.com/. Kate is artist #43 in the 2009 Portland Open Studios tour. To learn more about the tour, visit http://www.portlandopenstudios.com/. Tour Guides are available online through the website, or at New Seasons, Art Media, and other retail outlets listed on the website.

Below, her sculpture Family Arc presents herself as a newborn, coming home from the hospital with her mother, enclosed in a transparent arc on stilts surrounded by water. Only the watery waves are between the arc and the stilts, almost as if she is telling her baby-self to see the water, to be on the water, and to not fear the water.

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By Susan Gallacher-Turner

Kitty Wallis with pastel portrait

Kitty Wallis

“I’ve spent many, many years waking up in the morning saying what do I feel like doing today? As an artist, do I feel like going into the studio? Do I feel like going out meeting people? Do I feel like getting reference material? I’m very young looking for my age. And I think that’s one of the reasons,” says Kitty Wallis.

From the streets of New York to a California commune, Kitty has always lived an artist’s life. As a child growing up in a small, poor Pennsylvania town, Kitty’s mother was proud of her artistic daughter and encouraged her to draw. Later, it was a high school counselor who, saw Kitty’s talent, took her to New York City to apply for a full-tuition art scholarship at Cooper Union. Only 10% of the applicants to Cooper Union are accepted into this privately funded 150 year old college. After passing the difficult 8 hour entrance exam, Kitty was accepted into the program. Making her first move away from her small town home, in 1956, Kitty describes how it felt in the big city, “Culture shock! The first day was traumatic because I didn’t realize the importance of the fact that no one would know me. Because everybody knew me when I was growing up, there were only 2,500 people in my town. But people helped. By the end of the first day I had a place to live and a job. It’s amazing.”

Although being a student at Cooper Union is an honor and Kitty learned to work in a variety of media, she had her difficulties. The school was embracing abstract impressionism, the new wave of art in the 1950’s and Kitty wanted to do realistic work. Walking from her office job to school one day, Kitty passed by a group of sidewalk artists looking for customers when one of the artists said, “Get your portrait done.” Kitty replied back, “If I wanted a portrait of myself I would do one myself.” He challenged her to do his portrait right there and then. “So I did. And I was so excited by the whole thing because I did a good portrait of him. It was just a little charcoal sketch but it was right on.” The artist was so impressed with her skill, he suggested she set up her own street portrait business. Kitty says, “I was out there the next night with my chairs, easel and art supplies, the whole thing. That was the first move I made to be independent instead of having a job.”

Kitty’s journey began doing portraits on the streets of New York, but has taken her many places along the way. After three years at Cooper Union, Kitty got married and with her husband set up a shop in Philadelphia. He made sandals and she did portraits. Deciding to join a commune, they moved to California and a year or so later, Kitty moved to Santa Cruz. Kitty has traveled the country and the world making art and money, seeing old friends, making new ones and setting up gallery shows featuring work from her travels. Kitty says, “I first wanted to travel around the country so I could learn to be a traveler. So I got a van and some art supplies and started across the country for a year and a half.” Kitty found ways to make money along the way doing portraits, plein air painting and working with a therapy community. This led to a unique opportunity Kitty explains, “I got to a gallery in Dallas that had a few of my pieces. They were excited by what I was doing and said let’s do a show of your work when you get back.”

For a while, Kitty settled back in Santa Cruz, California enjoying the artistic lifestyle there. Then, she moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico where the gallery scene was thriving but after a few years, missed California and moved back to Santa Cruz. It was in Santa Fe, she overheard an art store conversation that led her down another professional road. “I had been using sandpaper and that gave me that painterly quality, rich hard edges color on color. It was sold in art supply stores as pastel paper even though it was disposable paper,” says Kitty. “I heard the art company rep tell the store owner that they weren’t going to supply the sandpaper anymore. I knew I had to have a paper with that texture and a product that wouldn’t fall apart after 50 years. And it had to have the sandpaper surface but smooth.”

It was a personal need that drove Kitty to develop her now famous Wallis Sanded Paper. At first, she made it herself on a Santa Cruz hilltop. With a spray gun in each hand, she sprayed resin on the paper first, then pumice. At the end of the sessions, covered with paint and pumice, Kitty would have enough paper to last her several months. But when her students wanted to know how she achieved her unique pastel effects, she realized she had to share her paper with them. And it was a student with manufacturing experience who helped her find a way to get the paper mass produced. Introduced at the first semi-annual International Association of Pastel Societies in Denver, Colorado in 1995, the paper was a hit and Kitty began receiving a regular salary for the first time in her life. “When I first got into this business I was very excited about finally having an income that didn’t depend on selling paintings. I wanted to see what I would paint if I didn’t have to pay the rent with the sale of my work. So the first thing I found out was, I depended on that need to sell for my painting discipline,” explains Kitty.

About that time, Kitty moved to Portland from Santa Cruz, bringing with her the studio tour idea that she’d been involved with there. “When I moved to Portland, my heart was so much involved in the open studios idea that I felt that Portland needs this,” she says. “But I didn’t want to come busting up here with, “In California this is how they do this.” So, she waited 3 years, meeting artists and collecting the names of artists whose work she liked. Kitty explains, “I got eight people to come to a meeting in August of 1998. We put up our own fees for the first year, $80 dollars a piece, enough money to print applications and send them out. And when we got applications back and juried, we had 49 people in the first tour.”

Ten years later, the Portland Open Studios Tour has grown to feature 100 artists at work in their studios all around the Portland Metro area. Kitty has watched Portland Open Studios grow with pride. Although she’s not as actively involved, she still enjoys participating in the tour every year. Kitty says, “I am so proud of how people took the ball and ran with it because you don’t want your baby to die. And to have such strong legs on your baby is a very nice thing. Because it’s growing in strength, vitality and popularity every year.”

In addition to Portland Open Studios, gallery shows, Wallis Paper company, teaching around the country and doing her own studio work, Kitty, at 71, is busier than she’s ever been. Retirement is not in her future, says Kitty, “I have never been so busy in my whole life. I’m 71 and I’m far from retiring. “I never thought of it as a goal. I would brag to people I’m so glad I belong to a profession that I don’t have to retire from.”

All those years ago as a young Cooper Union student, Kitty says she wanted to develop the chops of a master. As an internationally known, award-winning artist, teacher and entrepreneur, she’s done all that and more. Now as she works in her studio, she’s painting not just what she sees around her but what she feels within. “I finally allowed myself to understand that I was bored with realism,” she explains. She wants the colors and shapes to come from her gut, and her work continues to grow and evolve. “Now I seem to have found a new challenge. I’m doing something new and I don’t know how to do it. It’s a good thing. I want to learn how to create an expression that is mine,” Kitty says. “This is who I am.”

New work by Kitty Wallis

New work by Kitty Wallis


You can visit Kitty’s studio during the Portland Open Studios Tour, October 10, 11 and 17, 18 from 10 am to 5pm. Tour Guides are for sale at New Seasons, Art Media, Powell’s and on our website at Portland Open Studios.

Hear the podcast about Kitty Wallis at Voices of Living Creatively website.

By Shu-Ju Wang

Below, Thirteen Sisters Approach the Fantasy Planet by Kamala Dolphin-Kingsley, in watercolor, acrylic, and glitter.
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Not so long ago, there lived a princess in a beautiful meadow full of wondrous creatures. Chameleons, dodos, caterpillars and pugs with wings kept her company as she spun elaborate tales and staged magical plays that charmed the denizens of her kingdom.

Then one day, she packed up her bags, and moved to Portland.

Really. Only now, in Portland, she creates her fantastic theater on paper, using watercolors, acrylics, and glitter. And she really likes glitter.

•••

Welcome to the world of Kamala Dolphin-Kingsley—a world where family pets, exotic flowers, fantastical creatures, pirates and screen legends from years past mix happily with men playing golf and elderly gardeners tending to their roses. Her art lives at the junction of the probable and improbable, kitsch and class, tacky and humorous.

To stand in front of one of her pieces is very much like walking into a grand opera, an opera elaborately staged but has no libretto nor music. Imagine a silent opera that is a visual mashup of Mozart’s Magic Flute with Puccini’s Turandot, where all manors of creatures plot, conspire, and run amok among the lotus ponds and pagodas.

Kamala Dolphin-Kingsley is a creator of tall tales, fables, and myths, very much the product of a childhood spent as the only child of back-to-the-land parents who met at UC Berkeley. She spent her early years under giant Redwoods taking goats on walks, sitting with a rooster on her lap, creating communal banana slug, newt and centipede farms, and dressing up her pet rats and making them ride the dog. And of course, she read a lot. In other words, she kept herself entertained, relied on her own inventiveness, and was immersed in nature.

From there, she went on to receive a BFA in Photography from California College of Arts & Crafts. Although, she almost immediately moved on from photography upon graduation to doing illustrations professionally and to fine art. It is perhaps inevitable that she would find photography constraining, to be limited by what is available out there in the 3D world, when she can paint and draw unfettered by such constraints.

Unlike many artists who see art as a way to investigate the self or the community they live within (the larger ‘self’), Kamala sees art as an escape from the self. Starting with what she knows so intimately well even as a child—the natural world—she mixes in her love for art of the Victorian era, Art Nouveauu, Art Deco, religious art, Japanese prints, stained glass and costume jewelry to arrive at her unique way of story telling, of escape from the ordinary. In this bizarre and beautiful world, the family dog takes his leashed human on a walk, the dodo bird lives in an ice cave, the puppy rides a caterpillar, and the hedgehog has tiny wings. And you, the viewer, are invited to create you own stories from the lush landscapes of Kamala’s imagination.

***

PS. Even her name hints at what you might find during a studio visit and in her art: Kamala, the Hindi word for lotus; Dolphin, one of the most storied and beloved creatures on earth; and Kingsley, from the king’s meadow.

To see more of Kamala Dolphin-Kingsley’s art, visit her website at http://www.kamaladolphinkingsley.com/. To really enter her bizarre and beautiful world, visit her studio during Portland Open Studios; she is artist number 45.

For more information about Portland Open Studios, visit http://www.portlandopenstudios.com/.

Below, a corner of Kamala’s studio with her graphics table and her collection of sketches and found objects.
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By Susan Gallacher-Turner

“I’ve painted and drawn ever since I can remember,” says Kelly Neidig. Now, when I think of my memories a lot of the details are lost, but I can remember the colors and how I felt.”

Below, Kelly Neidig at work in her studio.
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Kelly Neidig remembers drawing birds in kindergarten, and they were so good, even her mother didn’t believe she’d drawn them. After winning an art contest in first grade, Kelly devoted most of her time to art. Growing up in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, a small town west of Pittsburg, Kelly went to schools that didn’t have any art programs, but she didn’t let that stop her. “I would just stay home and draw all the time,” says Kelly. “One year, my dad got me a big box of Prisma colored pencils, which are really expensive. So I was so afraid to use them that for three years, they sat in my room on my dresser. I still have them.”

All that drawing led Kelly to a major in landscape architecture at Penn State where teachers took notice of her natural talents and skill in art. For the first two years, the majority of the work focused on things Kelly loves like drawing, perspective, and working with color but then things changed. “Then it got into computers,” Kelly says. “For the next three years, you had to be on the computer and I didn’t want to be on the computer. I wanted to work with my hands. So I switched my major to art.”

On her first day in the art department, Kelly knew she was in the right place. “Walking around the art department, I felt so happy,” explains Kelly. “I actually wanted to apply for an art major but you needed a portfolio and I didn’t know what that was. But after two years, I realized I could just transfer because I was doing an integrated degree, I was just able to play and take whatever classes I wanted. It was awesome to be taking art classes.” Kelly took a variety of art classes including figure drawing, sculpture, ceramics and book making. Even though she did take a painting class, she found the teacher too structured for her and learned best when the class was more flexible. These classes taught her more about being open to the flow of the process than trying to control the product. “I’d rather just do it and see what happens,” says Kelly. “I do that with my paintings. I don’t ever try to have a complete idea. I like to go with the things that naturally occur.”

Letting things happen naturally is a reoccurring theme in Kelly’s art and life. From college at Penn State, Kelly moved to Arizona while her boyfriend went to school, she learned about the desert landscape all around her. “I only lived there for a short time, but coming from Pennsylvania and going to this landscape that was so alien,” explains Kelly. “It was like living on the moon, you can really see how the land is formed. I love the desert. I can’t get it out of my head.” While she was there, driving around the desert seeing the clashes between farmland and urban landscapes, taught her much about the importance of having natural places left undisturbed by man.

This sense of honoring the natural sense of place stayed with her when she moved to Portland. A choice Kelly says was driven by her art, “One of the reasons we chose Portland, was because I knew there was a big art scene here. And if I’m gonna be an artist I should be somewhere where people embrace art.” Her art career started on the street where she lived, selling small paintings on Alberta Street during the Last Thursday art openings.

It grew from there one step at a time from Last Thursday street sales, to coffee shops, wine bars and ultimately a gallery show at Guardino Gallery on Alberta Street. “I just started taking all the little shows on and started selling my art, and was able to work less and less at a job and work more on my art,” says Kelly. “Finally I quit my job and I’ve been a full-time artist for two years.”

In the last two years, Kelly’s been busy painting and getting her work out to the public. “I just say yes to everything, and figure the more places my art is the more chances it’s gonna be seen by somebody so I get it out there as much as I can,” Kelly says. Her goal – to make her work accessible to everyone at every price range – has led to some very interesting opportunities. Kelly now has paintings hanging in a Westin Hotel in Cincinnati and the U. S. Embassy in Doha, Qatar, as well as an upcoming show in La Conner Washington at the Museum of Northwest Art from October 10, 2009 to January 10, 2010.

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Working on the paintings for that show and others, Kelly finds her process evolves naturally, “I start with a lot of layers of drippy acrylic and see something in it. Then I go into it with thin layers of oils and then thicker layers.” As Kelly adds layer and layer of color, the feeling of landscape emerges for her connecting her memories to a sense of place. “I’m more creating a feeling of a place on the canvas using color, rather than creating a specific place or statement,” explains Kelly. “I omit a lot of detail and let the viewer put in their own ideas. I try to help people connect to their memories using color. I use color to create a feeling that helps people connect with a place through color.”

Helping people connect with the landscape or each other is another important part of Kelly’s life and art. It was a neighbor’s suggestion that helped Kelly become part of Portland Open Studios. In 2006, Kelly says, “I got accepted, went to the first workshop and didn’t know anybody. But after the event, talking about my art for two days straight to perfect strangers, I had a better understanding of what I was doing.”

Kelly enjoyed the experience so much she re-applied in 2007, got more involved working on the publicity committee with Bonnie Meltzer and at Bonnie’s suggestion became a board member and president the next year. Kelly is amazed at how much she has learned as a Portland Open Studios artist and president, yet in the three years it’s the connections and community she values the most. “Meeting all the artists in Portland open studios is definitely my favorite part,” says Kelly. “I have a really good community of other artists. And the artists who do open studios are the type of artists who are open to sharing what they do with other people.”

Kelly wants to encourage artists and art lovers to come on the tour and get more familiar with Portland Open Studios. When she first took the tour, before her first open studios weekend, she learned so much. “It was a bit overwhelming at first,” Kelly says. “But all the artists that I saw were just great. I loved seeing everybody’s art work and going into people’s spaces. As an artist, just seeing the way other people do their artwork, it always reflects their environment.”

Kelly Neidig may be president of Portland Open Studios, but she welcomes anyone’s questions about art or the tour. Kelly says, “I’ve gotten so much help from other great artists and people in my life, I just love helping other people as well.”

You can visit Kelly Neidig’s studio during Portland Open Studios Tour as well as 99 other artists all around the Portland Metro area. Tour dates are October 10, 11 and 17, 18 from 10am to 5pm. To find out when your favorite artists studio is open, buy your Tour Guide at New Seasons, Art Media and other outlets listed on the website www.portlandopenstudios.com

Listen to a podcast interview with Kelly at www.voicesoflivingcreatively.com.

Visit Kelly’s website at www.kellyneidig.com.

By Shu-Ju Wang

Below, Sabina Haque with one of her lightbox pieces One Nation Under God.
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Dominating, subversive, motherhood, submissive, breast—these were but a few of the words Sabina Haque received in response to her question “what comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘woman?’

For the word American, the responses—superpower, righteous.

For Muslimbrown, religious, militant, and exotic.

Three words, three starkly different reactions.

These questions were a part of an installation/experiential exhibit Sabina produced in 2003 that also included portraits and interviews she created of 25 Pakistanis and 25 Americans. In the center of the installation were large posters of Muslim American women.

Sabina Haque is a Muslim American Woman.

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Born in the US and moved to Pakistan with her family when she was 15 months old, Sabina grew up where people never questioned her identity–she was assumed to be Pakistani though she’s Scandinavian on her mother’s side.

After coming back to the US to go to school in Massachusetts for her BA and MFA, she found herself needing to define herself in a country obsessed with questions such as “where are you from?” and “what are you?

And so Sabina found herself in the “category” of Muslim American Woman. Soon, she started to move away from her previous work of representational paintings and started to use mythology, politics, religion, social, and regional concerns to address the issue of identity, and creating work for exhibits titled “Who Are You?” and “Home? Crosscurrents in Contemporary South Asian/American Art.

In these shows, Sabina engaged the public by finding the thread that binds us all, the thread that tells the story that we all share despite our seemingly disparate backgrounds. She created work based on 14th century Italian frescoes of Christ, and combined them with images of lotus blossom, the dagger of Kali, and verses from the Quran. Using the pages from a Bible and a Quran, she created a 12 foot woven tapestry. From this tapestry, she constructed a pillar, a pillar of the Bible and of the Quran. A pillar about the One Story, about commonality.

With her American citizenship, she’s able to delve into that space that’s in between two cultures, to cross borders, to define that space in between on her terms. She can see things from both sides. There are few people who have that biological and cultural advantage, to create work that sheds light on what it means to be American–and really, to be human–to close the gaps between us, to tell these personal psychological dramas that we can all understand.

Sabina continues to shed light on that commonality in her current work. She has started to talk about motherhood and family by exploring the myths around virginity and the cycle of birth and death—a topic without borders, if there ever was one.

Below, a self-portrait in Indian Madonna and Child.
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Sabina Haque is artist number 58 in the 2009 Portland Open Studios tour. To see more of her work, visit her website at http://www.sabinahaque.com/.