"Playful Spirits ~ Vibrant Visions" opened January 5 at Multnomah Art Center, 2788 SW Capitol Highway, Portland. The show includes recent work by Chas Martin and Consu Tolosa. The show will remain open until January 30.
I'm very proud to be included on the Portland Open Studios Tour again this year, my third year as a participant. This year, there are two other artists in my building: Rick Wheeler and Diane Ferree. Both have been actively preparing for the event. There are also several other artists participating in the immediate community.
In addition to seeing what and how we create, many artists (including me) offer classes. See details.
DATES: October 14, 15, 21 and 22. Studios are open from 10am to 5pm each day. Over 100 artists have been juried into the tour this year. Each will giving demonstrations of their processes and techniques.
TOUR GUIDES are available at my studio and at many art supply stores throughout the city.
DOWNLOAD THE FREE APP: (link available soon!) It's preloaded with addresses and uses Google Maps to navigate to participating artists. (iPhone and Android)
When I read a novel that taps into difficult-to-describe knowledge, it reinforces the idea that there is more to life than science or faith. I just finished reading "The Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern. It could be categorized as playful, fantasy, magic, or several other descriptors. She entertainingly explores the realm of the unexplainable.
"Magic," the man in the grey suit laughs, "This is not magic. This is the way the world is, only very few people take the time to stop and note it. Look around you. Not a one of them even has an inkling of the things that are possible in this world and what's worse, is that none of them would listen if you attempted to enlighten them. They want to believe that magic is nothing but clever deception, because to think it real would keep them up at night, afraid of their own existence."
Real versus magic reduces our perception to logic. We can thank Aristotle for our binary evaluation of the world. By his logic, everything that isn't right is wrong. That’s the foundation of our education system. The dominance of the left brain devalues the knowledge of the right brain because if it can’t be quantified, it doesn’t matter.
Years of studying creativity, imagination and thought processes have taught me that there is a universe of possibility between logic’s polar options. There can be more than one right answer. There can be more than two right answers. There can be dozens of right answers. Why not? There are certainly multiple wrong answers. There is more to the world than the extremes of pure science or pure faith answers.
It seems that each exist to negate the other. In science, provable facts define our perception for decades until overturned by new facts. Faith, on the other hand, is faith in the unprovable where the level of piety defines the truth. Between these extremes is a much greater realm of perception that is as real as we allow it to be.
Native American artist, Rick Bartow, often explored how we perceive the world. "Things We Know but Cannot Explain" was a powerful retrospective of his life’s work. In image after image, he reached beyond the grasp of science or faith to the core of the magic. It’s not the magic of tricks and deception. It’s the magic of letting go of the obvious to explore the sensuous.
David Abram’s book, "The Spell of the Sensuous," defined this magic as the essential experience of oneness that defies description. Any attempt to explain this experience in picture, word, song, or dance is an abstraction of the essential experience. Abstract or not, it seems to fit with Morgenstern’s world where magic is all around all the time. We just need to be open to its possibilities to participate.
The current show at Columbia Center for the Arts is a bold collection of works by 20 artists from San Diego to Seattle whose perspectives are as diverse as their styles. The hero’s journey theme is based on Joseph Campbell’s analysis of multiple cultures and their universal storytelling structure. Regardless of the source, these stories include the protagonist hero, a mix of allies, mentors, tricksters and villains entwined in a quest filled with obstacles. The journey is the underlying format for countless films from The Wizard of Oz to Star Wars and many others.
Applying this theme to art is nothing new. Seeing this diversity of artistic executions however, provides an enlightening view not only of the artist’s journey, but of how we see ourselves. Working in bronze, wood, fabric or paint, each artist has created a unique expression of the theme.
One of the most provocative pieces in the show is by Troutdale sculptor, Bud Egger. “Poet’s Lament” is a powerful bronze figure – a hero in a meditative pose which seems to summon inner strength. The sculpture is mesmerizing in its shape and masterful execution. In contrast is a series of paintings by Chehalis artist, Charles Funk. He integrates multiple allies in the form of birds and fish to create dreamlike stories in which everything is alive with meaning. Funk’s work magically echoes his Native American heritage.
Another series by Cuauhtémoc Kish of San Diego combines fabrics and beads intricately quilted into elegant portraits of mythic archetypes. There is a playful, trickster quality to these that compliments local artist Rodney Stuart’s wooden figures. These whimsical characters invite you to create your own narrative.
A large acrylic painting by Portland artist Rick Wheeler titled, “Ancient Stories” is an interpretation of petroglyphs combined with animal totems. The longer you look at this haunting piece, the more you will find. The complex arrangement of characters engages you in personal reflection.
Reflection is, in fact, the goal of the show. The hero’s journey format is as old as storytelling itself. We relate to the hero and to the quest. We are challenged to imagine how we can overcome adversity. Our personal involvement in the story helps us see, learn and act from our inner power. Through the artist’s visual narrative, we discover our own hero qualities and find our path.
Students from Lyle Middle School are also displaying related works in the Gallery Nook this month. They have created self-portraits in collage based on the hero’s journey. Their storytelling enthusiasm was evident at the show opening earlier this month. The Hero’s Journey Show will be on display through January 29.
Chas Martin curated The Hero’s Journey show. A Hood River resident from 1981-1998, he is a former president of the Columbia Art Gallery, predecessor of Columbia Center for the Arts. His current work is on display in the lobby of the Center this month.
Is there a difference between man and myth, or is each the reflection of the other? Explore the stories that define our lives through archetypal characters, cultural symbols, and dreams. These timeless stories guide us, anchor us and help us understand who we are and why we are here. “The Hero’s Journey” will reveal how men visualize themselves and their personal mythologies. Working in a variety of artistic forms, participating artists will consider their personal journeys, archetypes, the adventure of the examined life, and the deep roots of individual artistic expression.
The theme evolved from a discussion on Joseph Campbell's lectures which have influenced much of my own work. The call for entries resulted in a show of 30 artists from LA to Seattle. Interpretation of the theme vary widely, but also create a curious continuity.
The show will be on display through January 29, 2017 at Columbia Center for the Arts in Hood River. As a compliment to the Hero show, I am exhibiting a series of sculptures, masks and paintings in the Center's main lobby.
In November, I participated in the Young Audiences Teaching Artist Studio, a 5-day intensive workshop focused on classroom skills for artists who teach. Teaching artists are working artists who share their knowledge with students while working collaboratively with classroom teachers to integrate art into related studies.
I thought my experience as an artist and communicator was sufficient to connect with students. Yes and no. Yes, I knew how to connect with some students. No, I was not connecting with all students. Here’s one of the things I now understand more fully.
There are many different learning styles. Some students learn best through reading. Others learn through hearing. Some learn faster through hands-on exercises. Still others benefit through song, dance, role play, etc. I’m a visual artist. It comes as no surprise that I learn best through images and kinesthetic or hands-on techniques. But that’s just me. The art of teaching art has to address all learning styles.
One participant in our cohort is Julie Keefe, a photojournalist. In a short, highly interactive presentation she called “Camera Yoga,” she explained options for framing a photo. First she created a rectangle with her thumbs and index fingers. As she shifted her frame back and forth from horizontal to vertical, she described the frame in a series of terms: tall or wide; portrait or landscape; hot dog or hamburger. Then she added more dimension to the task by identifying different points of view: birds eye view, dog view, snake view. As she described each, we used our hands to frame each angle of viewing – looking down, looking straight ahead and looking up. We were in motion, engaged and actively putting new information to work. Finally, using a series of projected images, she anchored these concepts by having us identify the photographer’s point of view for each shot. This all happened within a few minutes. Yet each person in the room, regardless of his or her learning style was actively learning.
A teaching artist is expert in both an art form and the skills for communicating that knowledge to a full spectrum of learning styles. This is one of many valuable experiences I gained during the workshop. I have already integrated a number of techniques. With my painting students, I have them drag an empty brush over an existing painting to help them examine the brush strokes of the original painter. I found this creates a bit of suspense which fully engages students. Then we imitate those strokes with a brush loaded with pigment. In the process, they see, feel, hear my description, and describe their own observations. It also makes their strokes more deliberate and expressive.
Young Audiences Teaching Artist Studio is a professional development program for teaching artists in Oregon and SW Washington.
COLUMBIA CENTER FOR THE ARTS, Hood River
I juried "The Hero's Journey," a show which opens January 6, 2017 at Columbia Center for the Arts in Hood River. The show includes 30 artists from Oregon, Washington and California.
Concurrently, I am showing my most recent work in the Lobby. This is the first time this series has been seen outside my studio. I'm building it under the working title: "A Sequence of Incidents."
The incidents involve juxtapositions of 20+ sculptures, masks, watercolor paintings and a diorama.This series compliments the Hero's Journey theme.
Reception: Fri, Jan 6 from 6-8pm. Open to the public.
Please try to visit the gallery before the month is over. Thanks!
My studio is open for visits by appointment. I work in my studio most days unless the weather is really too good to stay indoors.
If I'm in the studio, I am usually willing to share whatever I'm working on and to talk about my goals and processes.
Please contact me if you would like to see works in progress, ask questions, learn about techniques.
Location: 7830 SW 40th Ave., Portland OR 97219
Corner of SW 40th and Multnomah Blvd., across from the Post Office. Four blocks west of Multnomah Art Center.
Call or email to arrange a visit.
This is a series of 8x8" panels for Portland's Big 500. I've done these in acrylic. I'm anxious to recreate these characters in large format - maybe 4x6'. I feel the need to do something large. I think restricting myself to this really small format showed me how much I really like to physically dance with the surface - a little tough with an 8" panel.
What's the difference between memories and ideas? Both are totally imaginary. One is a series of impressions about an event that we think has happened before. The other is a series of impressions of something that we think has not happened yet. The further into the past or ruture you try to see, the fuzzier the thought becomes.
"Mask of Memory" is a mixed media sculpture that evolved from a series of sketches. I created a form of a face, then created three different masks from that form. With some additional modifications, I assembled the three together and painted with a variety of pigments and polymer finishes to get an iridescent effect.
There is a process for creating 3-dimensionl art. I don't always follow it. Or, more accurately, the process changes with each piece, depending on how the idea evolves. "Birdman" is a working title because I do not yet know what the final form of this work will be. I have several ideas, but I'm keeping my options open.
These images document the evolution of the project so far.
Rivers and river canyons have been a recurring theme through my 40 years of painting and sculpture. It started while driving the Kancamagus Highway along the Swift River in New Hampshire. One sketch led to another.
The twisting, converging tributaries recur throughout nature: tree structures, root systems, arteries, appendages and antlers.
Rivers are a primal configuration symbolizing connectivity and confluence. To explore a river is to follow each tributary to its source, then find your way back to the main river channel.
I’ve never followed a duplicate tributary. Each is unique. The exploration, like jazz, is a journey to the origin of the passage and then to abstraction before returning to the central theme. At the source, you understand another perspective, a new insight of the passage.
River canyons carve passages through time. It is such and fundamental theme from which to tell a story – once upon a time....
This piece is still in progress. It started a few weeks ago as a quick graphite and watercolor sketch. I know instantly it would have to become three dimensional. I've been exploring sculpture for several months. This in not new territory. In the early 1980s I did a number of dioramas and free-standing sculptures. I always found it far more engaging to work with images in real space.
After the first sketch came a series of variations in graphite. Once I committed to creating the sculpture, I also decided to take my time and enjoy the process. The sculpture was build from left to right. The base rock was cut from layers of plywood. Next was a brass rod structure to provide a rigid armature for the body. The skeletal structure was added as a construction of wire and rigid cardboard to establish proportions. That was bent and twisted countless times as the two dimensional sketch began to find its spacial form.
The head, chest, pelvis, arm, wing, and legs each move on a different axis. As the body was formed from corrugated cardboard, the final pose took shape. At this point, I was still building left to right. The leg positions were still being changed every time I looked at it. The sculpture did not stand up until the legs were in place. The balance was finally established
Once the legs were finalized, I had to solve the cloud problem. I did not know what material I would use or how I would make it stable enough to last. Experiments with assorted fabrics and media resulted in a cloud-like look that is very rigid.
Creating the surface and attaching the clouds are the final steps. As this reaches completion, I now have a model for additional watercolors.
This piece and its component stages will all be on display for the Portland Open Studios Tour on October 10, 11, 18 and 18.
Visit my studio during those days to see this and other characters in development.
I have been included in the Portland Open Studios Tour 2015 - my second year on the tour. This year, I'll be displaying my newest venture into sculpture. After months of painting characters who are all part of the narrative that is in my head, I decided to create some of these characters in three dimension.
Please visit my studio October 10,11,17 or 18 to see what's been going on.
Email me to reserve a copy of the 2015 Tour Guide - $15 for a complete list of all 106 artists. Also available at New Seasons Markets. Or Download the PDXOS app for $4.99.
This short video is an animated series of images from a storyboard currently in progress. When complete, it will include 50 to 75 paintings. In my imagination, there is a storyline that connects the characters and situations. Your results may vary. Here, the story is edited into a linear path. On the wall in my studio, alternate paths can be easily discovered.
It’s ironic that we refer to scenic paintings as landscapes. While the land may be our focus, it is water that defines the land. Rivers, glaciers and tides are the sculptors that shape rocks and carve canyons. Water respects no boundaries or geographic borders. It belongs to no one, but nourishes everyone. Water is the essence of life, the agent of change and the most valuable element of the garden in which we live.
My paintings focus on water – its presence and its power. I hike and paint the wilderness areas of the Pacific Northwest looking for vistas and atmospheric conditions most people will never see. Painting on location is the best way to capture the light, weather and energy. Some of my paintings are finished on location. Others are taken back to my studio where I may study them for days or weeks before finishing. Location paintings also serve as references for larger, more formal watercolors.
My larger goal is to paint all the major tributaries within the Columbia River system. This 260,000 square mile region, roughly the size of France, drains portions of 7 states including the western slopes of Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. The variety of terrain and vegetation within the region spans alpine to coastal regions, cutting through high deserts and deep canyons along the river’s path.
Water flows through the landscape, through my imagination and through my paintings. Preservation of water quality and the pristine environments of our wilderness areas are a critical step in sustaining life. Each of my paintings is an individual step toward that goal.
When I lived in San Anselmo, California, in the late 70s, I became good friends with Rick Wheeler, a fellow painter. We showed together at a suspicious gallery appropriately named, "The Guilty Bystander." That's another story. At some point, we designed a set together for a modern dance performance. We also had a show at the "Blue Sky Gallery" in Ashland, Oregon in 1981. During the few years in California, we had many interesting conversations about art, physics, travel. I lost the connection with him after he helped me move to Oregon in 1981.
Yesterday, I thought about the Blue Sky Gallery. Following whatever instinct kicks in when the latte hits the brain, I searched for and located Rick. And, coincidentally, we have already arranged to meet up again when I'm in Arizona in a few weeks. This road trip was already planned a month or two ago will include Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon. I am very much looking forward to sharing perspectives again with a painter whose vision was always so unique.
I first started painting watercolor on my last trip through the Four Corners - 1980. I am posting a few of these as I look at them again myself. And I'm wondering how time and space has altered my vision and my ability to render it. Or better yet, how to speak through the visual language of pigments, water and paper to express the heartbeat of the earth.
Dreaming is a great source for impossible ideas. An interesting thing happens when you permit an obvious impossibility to exist in your active imagination without judgement. Instead of dismissing it for being illogical, let it linger. The longer you permit this to exist, the more you begin to understand it. And, sometimes, you realize it's not impossible after all. It's just not what you expect or accept as reality.
I've been exploring a series of ideas - illogical, impossible, unreal, other worldly, not ordinary ideas. The project began as a storyboard. I wanted to create a series of watercolors all centered around a central narrative. It began months ago with the understanding that this could take months or years to complete. So far, I've painted a half dozen character studies. I carry on conversations with these characters. I try to understand who they are. Where they've come from. What they need. What archetype they represent. Who they want to become. Then I try to paint them into a scene for the storyboard.
I'm in no hurry. It's an interesting journey that has brought me to a higher awareness and appreciation of my dreams. The characters appear nightly to audition for a part in my grand plot.
At some point, hopefully before the Open Studios Tour next month, I will take a few characters and scenes I've created and assemble them into a short animation. Experiments to date have altered my perception of how this story is going to unfold.
It's a journey. I don't know where it will end. But, I'm enjoying the impossibilities. I don't always understand what I'm painting. I have an idea. The paint and paper each seem to have their own ideas. The characters have ideas. Somewhere along the way is a negotiated outcome. Sometimes, it's controlled my me. Sometimes, I simply follow and respond. And a few hours later, the painting seems to have finished itself with me acting as a witness more than a creator.
I worked for years as a creative director. The goal: help others invent, nurture, expand ideas they hadn't thought of before. Part of that process is to challenge people to see the invisible. It's a real challenge. How do you see what isn't there? You stop believing everything you see and start believing the impossibilities suggested by your imagination.
The series of paintings I'm working on currently combines what I see with my eyes and what I see with my imagination. What you see with your eyes is usually a projection of what you expect to see. It's a reflection of what you believe is possible based on past experiences. What you see with your imagination is completely different. If you can suspend what you know or think is real long enough to let impossibilities exist, you may be surprised by what you find.
This is one of the common traits shared by many of the most creative people. When you stop looking for something specific and let your imagination show you illogical alternatives, you venture into the realm of unique perspectives.
On October 11, 12, 18 and 19, Portland Open Studio Tour will expose local artists to the public. Artists will be displaying and talking about their work, their processes, their inspirations and their obstacles. I'll be among the 96 artists featured this year. I'm honored to be included with people like William Park. See the complete list of artists.