Artists and patrons pleased with SE Portland’s ARTWalk

Visual stimuli abounded at this year’s SE Area ARTwalk! Come along; we’ll introduce you to some of the colorful artists we met …

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
There’s been a virtual explosion of talented artists – working in widely divergent media – in inner SE Portland within the last decade.

In 2002, artist Rin Carroll Jackson created the Southeast Area ARTWalk – now an annual event – to help artists connect with one another. The idea caught on, and now this first-of-March exhibition showcases the work of many area artists for patrons and regular folks who enjoy the creative stimuli of meeting the creative artisans.

This year’s Southeast Area ARTwalk included exhibits and demonstrations of 80 artists. The public participated by obtaining a free map, and embarking on a self-guided tour of the artists’ creative spaces, or their homes and businesses in the area.

If you didn’t take the tour this year, we’ll introduce you to some of the artwork we viewed on our tour and share notes from journal about the artists:

Amid the hustle and bustle of this popular coffee shop, stained glass artist Donald Leedy exhibits his colorful, reflective works.

Artist: Donald Leedy
Location: K&F Coffee, SE 26th Ave
Medium: Stained Glass

“I love working with stained glass,” said Richard Leedy, “because I enjoy working in three dimensions. I recover both art and industrial glass to use in my projects.”

“I’ve always had affection for stained glass windows of all kinds,” explained Leedy. “There’s always been stained glass in my house. One day I picked up the tools and started creating it; and it’s worked out pretty well. Portland is a great place to be doing this work; people here are very receptive.”

After 12 years of experience, Leedy said he gets commissions for both fine art and for industrial stained glass works.

The multitalented Bonita Davis shows her oil on canvas paintings, hand-woven goods, and unique cards.

Artist: Bonita Davis
Location: K&F Coffee, SE 26th Ave.
Media: Oil on canvas; knitted handbags

At the same bustling coffee shop, we also met Bonita Davis, an artist who creates stunning paintings that catch the eye.

“I’ve been involved with painting the longest,” relates Davis. “Oil painting on canvas is my passion; I’ve been pursuing it continuously for the past 15 years.”

Although Davis works full time providing rehabilitation services, she’s also learning how to create in a new medium – knit art. “Knitting is a relatively new skill for me. I really enjoy it, and it’s portable,” she said as she continued knitting a new purse. “The main attraction for me is the wide variety of beautiful yarns that are available.”

Richard Fung makes gallery-quality images using cameras that cost him from only $1.50 to thousands of dollars.

Artist: Richard Fung
Location: Bara Sushi House, SE 21st Ave.
Medium: Photography

Moving westward, we were met by photographer Richard Fung in this home-turned-Sushi-bar.

“My medium is all types of photography,” said Richard Fung as he exposed his passion for taking pictures. “I work with all photographic media – including color, black and white, digital, and film. I’m photographically eclectic.”

For fine art photography, Fung said he likes to use a plastic camera from the ’50s trademarked the “Diana”. “These originally sold for $1.50, but the cameras now sell on E-Bay for $150. I like it because it produces kind of an ethereal effect; ‘Diana’ photos almost look like paintings.”

From portraits to urban settings and landscapes, Fung said photography has been a passion for him since he was five years old. “While I do commissioned photography, and sell my work at galleries, photography is an avocation. I’m also a recruiter for the City of Gresham Police Bureau.”

Painting as she talks, Penelope Culbertson says she loves expressing herself through art.

Artist: Penelope Culbertson
Location: Clinton Corner Café, SE 21st Ave.
Media: Watercolors and collage

In addition to viewing her displayed artwork, we enjoyed watching Penelope Culbertson as she painted.

“I’ve been working with watercolors for about 25 years,” explained Culbertson. “I learned to paint in the tropics, in Hawaii – an area very well suited for the bright, fluid nature of watercolors.”

In addition to producing artwork and calligraphy, she’s also a teacher, offering both private classes and at a studio on SE 42nd Avenue.

“The best thing about painting is that I get to express myself,” Culbertson said colorfully. “My art allows me to exploit what I see, so I can share it with others.”

There wasn’t a good way photographically to capture Joel Barber’s perspective mural of the Roseland Theater; but all of his paintings – like this jolly bear – are colorful and imaginative as this one.

Artist: Joel Barber
Location: Cadenza Academy, SE 21st Ave.
Media: Painting and collage

A man known for his abstract figurative and surreal pop paintings, Joel Barber had stepped out for a moment when we visited. We admired his works on display.

The realistic perspective of a full-wall mural in one room almost caused us to lose our balance. The forced perspective of Barber’s painting made it appear as if we’d stepped on stage at the Roseland Theater – magically turning a short, wide room into a captious music hall.

Barber soon arrived. He said he’d been painting – and selling his work – since childhood; but professionally, for 25 years.

“My mom just sent me a series of pastels I painted as a child,” Barber related. “I was trying to sell plain rocks to our neighbors, without success. She suggested I do paintings and sell them. She and my grandmother purchased them all.”

Although Barber said he didn’t remember much about those paintings, he was surprised to see the “canvas” was painted edge-to-edge, and each painting bore a price tag, as in a gallery.

Barber calls art his “full-time job”, but admits, “I punch a clock three days a week. It helps the bills get paid on time. Working at Columbia Art Supply is great; instead of just ringing up sales, I get to share my knowledge, and teach.”

According to the artists with whom we spoke, this year’s ARTwalk was the best ever, in terms of the number of visitors and their level of interest. Look for this event again on the first weekend in March, 2009.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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