SE Portland ARTWalk puts creativity on parade

See why many people now say that the most creative artists have moved to East Portland. Meet six of them right here …

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The annual SE Area ARTWalk, founded by Rin Carroll Jackson in 2002, started with a small group of artists, and has continued to be organized by a dedicated group of artists and business owners.

“The idea was to reach out to artists in the area, help them make new connections and show their talents and skills in a small, neighborhood art tour,” she said. “The growth of the event has been astounding, and we are thankful for all the support we have received from neighborhood/business associations, local area residents, business owners, and art enthusiasts. Without the network of passionate community-members, the event would not be where it is today.”

The group’s volunteer publicity coordinator, Kathi Drummond of RedKat Imaging, helped us coordinate our tour – during which we met seven artists who work in a variety of media.

Dorothy Steele and P. Anna Johnson show off their porcelain and ceramic original containers.

Ross Island Pottery / Dorothy Steele Pottery
1100 SE Woodward Street

Being a full-time artist in the area since 1990, many people have met potter Dorothy Steele. She said that over the years she’s done “all kinds of art”, until she settled on creating porcelain, hand-built pottery with plant impressions and bright colors.

“I’ve always seen clay is very organic in itself,” Steele told us. “By putting impressions of plants in the clay, it makes it even more organic – it looks almost like fossils. My color combinations come from observing nature.”

Steele said she looks forward to the ARTwalk each year. “It brings a community together, and showcases our creative community here. But it’s also a showcase for all the artists in Southeast Portland.  It’s good exposure for people, general people in the community, to get to know the artist and that all this artwork is here.  It’s great exposure, and a great community event.”

P. Anna Johnson – Ceramics
Another artist showing in the same studio during our visit was P. Anna Johnson. “Actually, I’m one of the six people who work in this studio, and share the space.”

She describes her work as “sculptural and functional”, adding that she was attracted to the process of making stoneware ceramics because she thinks “in a three-dimensional way. Before I was a potter, I was a dancer. Many potters are also dancers.”

Find out more about the artisans here by visiting their website: CLICK HERE.

Cheri Holly shows a ceramic vase. She first carved the bamboo scene with which it is decorated before imprinting it onto the vase.

Cheri Holly – Ceramics
At her home on SE Tibbits Street

Next, we met a woman who says she uses here hands to both create – and heal. “My real job is being a registered nurse at St. Vincent Hospital,” confided Cheri Holly, while showing her ceramic artwork to visitors. “This is the other half of my job, and my being.”

Although Holly said she now enjoys making ceramics by hand, her artistic impulses started her out illustrating, drawing, and painting. “When I started getting back into art, as my kids got older, I was having a hard time doing the quality of work that I did when I was younger. I thought I’d do something completely different.”

One of her favorite techniques, Holly noted, is to first make artistic carvings in clay, bisque the carving, and then use that to make an imprint in ceramic piece.

The professional quality of Holly’s work belies the fact she started learning pottery only four years ago. “It took off, now I have my own studio and kiln in the basement.”

Amber Oxford’s fine art drawings and paintings are on display on the mantle, as she creates a living work of art on the face of Gretta Baker.

Amber Marie Studios – Figure and Body Art
Also showing her artwork in Holly’s home was artist – and body art painter – Amber Oxford.

“I create art on paper, canvas, wood, and on whatever I can find,” said Oxford “I even have a toilet seat that’s been decorated. I like finding things and repurposing them.”

While she talks, Oxford is panting a design on Gretta Baker’s face. “People are my favorite subjects and objects. I enjoy drawing and painting figure studies, and also like putting art on the body.”

Her kind of “body art” isn’t done with tattoos: “I have a real fear of needles.” And, she’s not the typical “face painter” who splashes on crude, cartoonish paint. “In 1999, I learned what we call ‘body art’ from a mentor – it’s fine art, integrated onto a human body.”

Her day job as a website and office administrator hasn’t deterred her creative passion. “I’ve been drawing as far back as I can remember. I used to trace images of my favorite cartoons on paper off of the TV screen. I’ve been a cartoonist for awhile, then a comic book artist – and I kept drawing people. I like having a little creativity in my days.”

To learn more, visit her website: CLICK HERE.

Photographer David Duck says he loves the experience of capturing outdoor images.

David Duck – Landscape Photography
At his home on SE Tibbetts Street

At this home, we met three artists – including the homeowner, David Duck, a landscape photographer.

“It started when my mom told me to take a hike!” Duck grinned. “I thought, while I’m out, I might as well take some photographs. Since then, photography is always given me a license to dawdle outdoors.”

Even though Duck said he enjoys travel, “You can explore new images in your backyard just as well as you can in a foreign country.”

Eschewing the relative ease of digital photography, Duck says, he prefers the “slow and deliberate” process of capturing an image using a medium-format camera – a Hasselblad, shooting Fuji transparency film. Using a digital process, he creates large-format images that are “painted by light” onto genuine photographic paper.

Photography is actually a sideline for him, Duck mentioned. Nowadays, he’s a family man who works as a property specialist at Portland’s VA Hospital. “But, I still really enjoy getting outdoors and finding new images.”

Learn more by visiting his website: CLICK HERE.

Stephanie Meredith displays some of her colorful, abstract oil-on-canvas paintings.

Stephanie Meredith – Oil on canvas
A professional artist for two years now, Stephanie Meredith said she started drawing as soon as she could “pick up a pencil”, because her mother was also an artist. “When I was in college at Santa Fe, New Mexico, I dabbled in sculpture – but it just wasn’t as natural for me.”

Meredith added that she’s developed two styles – depicting micro-objects, and abstracts.

“I create paintings of things so small, like pollen for example, that you can only see them through a microscope. I also do abstractions of my own designs. These are all bright, monochromatic works, painted three-dimensionally so that they seem to pop out of the painting.”

Her favorite of the process, Meredith added, is coming up with the concept for a new work. “I enjoy figuring out what I’m doing, and why I’m doing it. From there, it’s more of the craft of making it come out the way I’ve imagined it.”

See more of her work at her BlogSpot page: CLICK HERE.

Jewelry artist Wendy Price says she likes creating wearable art.

Wendy Price – Handcrafted jewelry
Creating “wearable art” is the craft pursued by jewelry artist Wendy Price.

“I learned to make jewelry, a craft I could do with my mom when I was a teenager,” Price said. “We took classes together.”

The beads that Price uses are typically made of hand-blown glass, not plastic. “I like to let the components – the jewelry and the beads – inspire me. I pick out the colors, textures, and chains I like, and work from there.”

A great deal of her jewelry, she told us, is created using sterling silver and semi-precious gems. “But, I’ll use almost any material, if it works in the jewelry I’m creating.”

You can contact her by e-mail at wendyscollon@comcast.net.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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