Connecting Heritage and Place

Artist Beth Yazhari (Artist #96) recently interviewed fellow artist Anne Mavor (Artist #60)

Anne Mavor, who is a talented writer in addition to being a visual artist, is influenced by many diverse sources. Her father, an Astro-Archeologist, was fascinated by ancient stone mounds built by Neolithic and Bronze age cultures, and Anne has painted many images of these Stonehenge-like sites using some of his 40 years worth of research photos as inspiration. Her encaustic watercolor paintings feature transparent layers of color and often have an ethereal watery quality. Anne enjoys the experimental nature of her unique painting process, but she also spends a great deal of her time working on large installations that deal with personal and philosophical themes.
During my interview with Anne, she said of her artistic process, “For me, it’s a lot about heritage and family, and home and place—where do I fit in, where do I belong? Where is my people? Where can I be?”
In her brand new studio, which is adjacent to her home and which she is building in preparation for this year’s Portland Open Studios tour, Anne will be looking for feedback from the public on a prototype of her newest creative endeavor, an installation project called “I Am My White Ancestors: Self-Portraits Through Time.” This will consist of large photos of herself dressed as such ancestors of hers as Eugenia Buchanan (b. 1823), who lived in South Carolina and owned slaves (see photo below).

Anne is trying to figure out what made her own ancestors take part in oppressive systems; she describes her work as “a love affair with the places my family has been connected to in an effort to find connection for myself.”
Portland Open Studios is an opportunity for Anne to share her thought-provoking and beautiful art with others. The goal of her paintings is to “express the tender and deep bonds between humans and place,” and she wants her art to be a catalyst for helping our generation to heal racism and to have a healthy and sustainable relationship with the earth. The opportunity to be one of the first to visit her in her new studio this October should not be missed!

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” I like when you can see things in process. You can see a painting at the beginning and something they’ve finished. The tour personalizes it.”

Here’s the second interview, a couple named Lauren and Evan,  young collectors and committed Portland Open Studios participants. They have just begun to purchase local work.

Tell me about the first pieces you purchased. Were those from your first year on the tour?

Evan: Those are from the first studio we went to.

And you bought something? Were you planning on that?

Lauren: No. We just picked her out of the calendar. She had some huge pieces, which were really beautiful, but a little outside of our price range. These made us think, we can get something! Let’s get something!

What drew you to them?

Lauren: They are pretty unique. They sort of glow with light. At the time we were living in a house that had lots and lots of blue walls, so when we brought them home they looked really perfect. Just the little slivers of blue picked up on all the colors in the house. I think the paintings just seem sort of magical and wonderful. We’re not too into realism, so I think that was appealing. And they were attainable.

How has your experience been interacting with the artists?

Lauren: For me, it’s interesting to see the different personalities. All these people and they open up their homes to Portland, which is amazing to me. All of them, whether they’re organized or not. I don’t know how on earth I would prepare for open studios if I were an artist.

Evan: It’s nice to get the artists who are personable and will reach out and explain the process. The process and their process. How they conceptualize it and go about doing what they do. Certainly there are items we would never be interested in buying—a gilded sword or a mace—but are just beautiful and amazing. To have people say: I do this and then I do this. Really, that they’re so passionate about it. It’s neat to see that.

Lauren: Because you don’t get that at museums and galleries. If you go to the gallery opening, maybe you can see the artist talking about their stuff. But I love that it’s so unique. There have been very few places where we haven’t had the opportunity for a one-on-one.

Has participating changed your perspective on art?

It makes me appreciate being able to see the open studios more. When we go to museums and things. Its just there’s a booth with a bunch of art in it and you don’t really know how it came to be there or why they’ve chosen these things. I like when you can see things in process. You can see a painting at the beginning and something they’ve finished. The tour personalizes it.

How will you decide what piece you will buy?

Lauren: Part of the great thing about the tour is getting a piece and being able to talk about it. There’s a potter or sculptor in north Portland who collected his mud from very specific places and they all had different looks. When you fired them, they looked totally different. Those stories are the kind of things that are important.

Evan: In the past, we’ve walked into a place, looked around, and starting looking at each other and then looking back at a couple of pieces. For something like fifty bucks, if we like it, let’s get it. For our largest piece, we thought about it for a year. It’s what plops in front of our eyes and grabs our attention.

But the story is important?

Lauren: Yeah. And having a good interaction with the artist. In a situation such as open studios, I can’t see us walking in somewhere, seeing something we thought was cool, and then without talking to anybody, checking the sticker and saying, we’ll just take that. Being able to talk about it is very important. Even if no one ever asks about it.

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A peek into what the tour is like for visitors

Awhile back there were several interviews done with people in the Portland art community and visitors to the tour.  In the next few days I’m going to share them with you so that you can get an idea of what you can expect when you participate in Portland Open Studios yourself.

The first interview I want to share was done with Donna Guardino, the owner and curator of the Guardino Gallery in Alberta. Gallery has been a staple of Portland’s art scene for over fifteen years.

 Q.  How do you think Portland Open Studios has affected the art scene in the city?

A.  I think it has opened the eyes of people. There was a time when Portland was not an art town. And Portland is an art town now. Everybody recognizes it. There are a tremendous amount of artists here.

Q.  You show a lot of emerging artists.

 A.  I like emerging artists. I want someone to come in with a nice portfolio, a CD and a resume and all of that kind of stuff. But if they come in, and they don’t have it, and their work is dynamite—that’s all that matters. I have to keep my mind open because I’ll miss it if I don’t.

I was on a panel for emerging artists about getting started and somebody else was saying the portfolio has to be this way or that way, it has to be slides, etc. I thought, you know you could be missing that gem there. Over the years, I have given people their first shows. Shows where I’ve watched them develop. It’s pretty exciting.

The tour helps me keep abreast of the scene. I always look at the calendar to find out who’s who. I think it’s good for Portland because it does expose the fact that there are a lot of artists and a lot of studios in Portland. A lot of people are working here.

Q.  How do you choose what will show in the gallery?

A.  I really like to look at the artwork personally. Touch it. Hold it. And talk to the artist. It’s important to me to know the direction of an artist.

Q.  How does that affect your experience of the work?

A.  I can give you a little example. Somebody came in and showed me six paintings. Three I liked a lot and for three, the direction was strange. So I asked the person, what do you think? What’s your direction? And they said, oh, those three there, those are the past. I don’t want to do those anymore. And the three that I was less interested in were the direction they wanted to go in. So, when you get to talk to an artist one-on-one, you get to find out where they’re going, what their ideas are, and what kind of a show they would give you.

A  lot of what I do in the gallery, even though the artist is not present, I really want to know about the process. If you ask me about solar plated intaglio, I can tell you about solar plated intaglio. I grill each artist to find out about their process. My belief is that when you come and buy a piece of art you want some identity with it, you respond to it somehow, and sometimes when you get that extra bit of information about well, this is done this way or this person has this kind of history. You know, she used to be a potter and now she’s a glass blower or whatever. Those things factor in to how you buy or how you look at a piece of art.

I don’t believe in telling people this means this or this means that. I think a viewer should look at it and respond to it in their own way. The open studio does the same thing. A person goes in, sees a piece of art, and they connect with the artist or they connect with the process. There’s some history there. I know that in my house I have lots and lots and lots of art from over the years. And when I look back on it, it is all from people I have connected with in some way.

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Visit Stan Peterson’s studio this year and adopt a rescue dog!!

Stan Peterson,  Artist #73, creates his art in wood.  You can visit his gallery on line by going to his website,  Today he shares with us some of his technique, and what he does with the “leftover” wood.
By Stan Peterson

The bandsaw is the only power tool I use in my wood studio. I prefer working with hand tools and the slow process of carving. I use basswood from the lumberyard which comes in long, clear boards. I draw the outlines of a proposed sculpture and then saw out the carving blank with both Japanese pull saws and a small bandsaw.

There are a lot of left over cut off pieces from this roughing out process.
I’ve always kept a box of these cut offs under the bandsaw and am constantly intrigued by their irregular shapes. Recently I have started a new series in the studio called RESCUE DOGS.

I piece the selected scraps together using gorilla glue until a dog like form appears. It is a process of rescuing the potential of what is left behind or discarded.
Everybody likes a friendly dog but only a few will actually give one a home. For Portland Open Studios this year, I’m carving a bunch of wood dogs which have been rescued from the bandsaw and looking for new owners and companions.


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Shannon Passon: Encaustic art exploring the exchange of energy

Portland Open Studios’ artist Anne Mavor (Artist #60) had a chance to sit down and talk with fellow encaustic artist Shannon Passon (Artist #71)  last month. Here is her interview.

Working primarily in encaustic, but also in acrylic and mixed media, Shannon’s vibrant and layered paintings explore what is elemental and lies at the core of life: exchange of energy. Though her paintings all have a landscape feel, they are overlaid with images of wind turbines, molecular diagrams and water to evoke scientific meaning.

Shannon’s favorite part of being an artist is the doing, when she becomes lost in the process, free of overthinking, worry or distractions. This is not surprising, since she describes herself as a hands-on, even messy process painter, which means she does not plan out what the finished painting will look like. She paints until it is done and she has a painting. Over the years she has discovered it is the best way for her to work because she needs to respond to what is actually happening. Even if she does make a plan, at some point she will find herself going elsewhere. Mistakes are a chance for a different response.

Since her painting process is all about freedom, Shannon hopes people can perceive that spirit of freedom in the work. The images are not contained or boxed in, but pour over the edges. She also hopes people get something positive, but knows she can’t control how people how they might react. However people respond, positive or negative, she is ok.  Engagement is the most important thing.

In 2010, after moving back to Portland, she started going on the Portland Open Studios Tour and was in heaven. This is her second year as a participating artist. She loves going into studios and seeing work. She is always impressed by the quality of work and the warm welcome at each studio. She also likes that the visitors are such an enthusiastic and open group of people. It is a rare opportunity for her to share her work and interact with people differently than she might while at a gallery opening.

During Portland Open Studios Shannon will be demonstrating the hot wax process of creating encaustic art but also wants to show the wide range of other materials she uses in combination with pigmented wax.  Like so many artists who use encaustic paint, Shannon appreciates the versatility of the medium and endless possibilities. Her current SE Portland studio is in a large building filled with a variety of small businesses, including many artists.

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Artist Highlight: Chantel Greene

Chantel Green (PDXOS Artist #34) is both a scientist and an artist.  “I use art to investigate and dissect the world around me. Art allows me to understand and connect with things by exploring the associations between ideas and images. My work is heavily influenced by my formative teenage years spent in an alternative science centered high school, where my art was limited to dissection drawings and microscope illustrations. My understanding of how things worked was not complete until I drew it in some way. When I started making art as an adult I always came back to these technical and biological themes and I enjoy using these images in a creative way, merging art and academics.”  Chantel is an encaustic artist.  Here she shares a recent blog in which she explains the process of creating encaustic art.

An Explanation of Encaustic

I create my artwork with encaustic paint which is bees wax, damar resin, and powdered pigment for color. Beeswax is relatively durable, flexible, and has a high melting temperature so it won’t melt under normal indoor temperatures. The resin raises the melting temperature and adds hardness and shine. The wax is kept liquid while painting by keeping your paint in metal tins on a heated surface that will reach 220 degrees, like a pancake griddle.
The word encaustic means “to burn in” and is an ancient medium that Greek artists used back as long ago as the 5th century BC for portraits and panels. The earliest surviving encaustics are the Fayum funeral portraits found on mummies that were created by Greek artists in Egypt between the 1st and 3rd centuries A.D. Encaustic paint was also used by contemporary artists like Rembrandt, Diego Rivera, and Jasper Johns.
There are a few simple rules for dealing with encaustic paint. Number one is that you must have a sturdy substrate so that the wax won’t bend and crack. Number two is that you can’t mix acrylic paint with encaustic because the wax won’t adhere to the paint. Finally, number three is that you have to fuse your painting after every layer with a heat source like a heat gun or torch.
What I really enjoy about encaustics is how it is both flexible and unpredictable, which leads to a lot of experimentation. The process of painting with encaustics is technical and creative which allows me to walk the line of scientist and artist. You can scratch lines in it, build it up, scrape it back, add texture, collage materials, and even do image transfers. It’s versatile, flexible, fast, and just plain beautiful.

To see more about Chantel Green, visit her website at

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PDXOS artists participate in ArtBurst Northwest

ArtBurst Northwest (the rebranded West Linn Arts Festival) occurs on Aug 2 & 3, and will feature two of our 2014 participating artists: Jeni Lee (Artist #50) and PM Shore (Artist #79).  Be sure to stop by and check it out!!

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A tribute to women’s handicrafts

Artist Anne Mavor (Artist #60) recently interviewed fellow artist Beth Yazhari (Artist #96)

Imbedded in the dense, layered, and intricate images in Beth Yazhari’s fabric paintings is the story of women’s relationship to craft, domestic work, and creativity. The mandala-like pieces are filled with fabrics, beads, doilies, table clothes, saris, from all over the world in order to bring cultures together. One contains pieces from Norway, Dubai, India, Pakistan, Germany, Africa. The elements come from family, friends, and vintage stores. In addition, she also includes images gleaned from photos printed on fabric.

Beth was inspired by her maternal grandmother, who created beauty all around her home but didn’t see that domestic work as artistic or important. In fact, one goal of Beth’s artwork is to help viewers to acknowledge women’s handicrafts as fine art. The separation of craft and fine art seems arbitrary to her. She also considers her artwork to be collaborations with those anonymous workers.

Her Mountain Park studio is in the downstairs of her house and is covered with pieces in progress and some of her vast collection of colorful and intriguing materials. Her favorite part of the process is preparing the canvas. She starts out by building up a velvety, textured surface using acrylic paint. The resulting image feels and looks like fabric. She then then lays out fabrics and other interesting pieces of women’s domestic history. The hardest and most labor intensive part is sewing all the pieces to the background. It reminds her of the long and invisible hours women have worked doing housework and keeping families together.

Her main reason for being involved in Portland Open studios is to network with other artists and build community in order to encourage each other. When her children were younger, the feeling of isolation as both a mother and artists was acute so she knows the value of support and community

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Inspiration – where do artists get it?

It’s interesting to contemplate how artists get the inspiration to create their art pieces. I think you’ll find Chas Martin’s blog on his process very interesting indeed.

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Change and growth!

I find it so exciting to see how our artists change and grow over time. Check out Donna Cooper’s blog. She’s headed off in a new direction in fabric.

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