Portlanders are known for out-of-the box thinking, maverick action and putting crazy ideas into motion – in general, keeping it weird. Portland Open Studio artists are no exception to the rule – you will no doubt be amazed by the 99 artists who will show you their processes over the second and third weekends of October (Oct. 13-14 and 20-21). But even amongst this powerhouse creative group, some have risen above and beyond to create innovative, interesting, and – dare we say it – weird ways of making art.
So where can you find the top most unusual artistic processes during open studios?
Angela White-Wenger (Studio 74, North Portland Community 5), harvests orb weaver spider webs on porcelain forms in her backyard, and fires the designs into the final product. “I imagine them lasting for billions of years,” she says. “The webs are records of many things. In their design, scale, shape, captured contents (bugs, seeds, leaves, dust and debris), in their broken and repaired areas – they reflect and record the bodies, locations, surrounding conditions and daily activities of their creators.”
Linda Ethier (Studio 30, Southeast, Community 3), creates delicate, intricately constructed glass sculptures with an ancient glass technique known as pate de verre, a process using finely ground particles of glass packed into molds and fired until they melt into forms. She then piles these delicate glass objects layer upon layer, firing each layer, and using molds to maintain the shape of each individual piece. “I use images of the natural world of things gathered and cherished since childhood: feathers, leaves, bones, egg shells, twigs and the odd mysterious trinket, saved as treasures to be revisited, to be seen and pondered during quiet moments.”
David Friedman (Studio 53, Northeast, Community 4), is a paper cutter who uses color optics to add depth and texture to his work. That involves cutting more than one layer, and putting colored pastel papers behind black pastel paper, creating a duplex paper to cut from, then mounting it up so its colorful shadows reflect on a white matteboard to which it is attached. “That makes color an integral part of each piece,” says Friedman, who developed the technique on his own. How unusual is it? In July, he did a demo for the Guild of American Paper Cutters, which met in Portland. “None of them had seen anything like it,” he said.
When we tried to hand sculptor/welders Rio Butler (Studio #92, Southwest Portland, Community 8) and Robert Travis Pond (Studio #3, Oregon City/West Linn, Community 1) an art store coupon, both turned it down. “I never use art supplies,” says Pond, shrugging. His beautifully gestural, crafted sculptures of animals and other objects are based on materials he pulls from scrap heaps. “I look for objects with significance and meaning,” he says. Butler, whose whimsical structures create an entirely new, mechanical world, agrees. “I scavenge things from every job I’ve ever done,” he says, “and then I let the pieces talk to me to tell me what to make.”
Photographer Jon Gottshall (Studio #69, North Portland, Community 5) and multimedia artist Kit Carlton (Studio #93, SW Portland, Community 8), both fuse old-school and new school artistic processes. Gottshall starts by printing a photograph onto clear, non-absorbent acetate, which allows the ink to remain fluid as it prints – and the longer he waits, the more it changes. He scans several changes, then overlays the scans into the original photograph, before printing a final copy. The result? Photographs that look like paintings. Carlton creates marks using pen, paint, and other art supplies on various surfaces, then photographs and layers those images using a computer – a process she terms “digilog – a combo of analog and digital art.”
And finally, Elise Wagner (Studio #73, North Portland, Community 5), combines encaustic painting (mixing wax with paint) with collograph printmaking. She now teaches this process nationally.