YAMHILL

Finn builds a galaxy… with help from a pro

Artist Michael Bernard Stevenson Jr. and 6-year-old Finn Connaughton collaborate on an extraterrestrial installation at the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg

The Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg features an exhibit, Finn Builds a Galaxy, that was created by two artists whose life experiences could scarcely be more different.

Artist Michael Bernard Stevenson Jr. is 32 years old, has studied art at Alfred University School of Art and Design, and is doing graduate work at Portland State University. Stevenson has worked as a figure model, a cook, a grocery store clerk, and a community organizer. Born in Gaithersburg, Md., the artist has traveled to Mexico, Canada, Scotland, Italy, and Germany. For the past 10 years, Stevenson has worked on a variety of projects while also studying.

The exhibit is named after the other artist, Finn Connaughton. He’s 6 and attends first grade at Yamhill-Carlton Elementary School. The son of a pharmacist father, Erin, and Jacki, a stay-at-home mother, he’s fond of Minecraft, building with LEGOS, and Pokémon. And, of course, art. 

Finn Connaughton, 6, and Artist Michael Bernard Stevenson Jr., 32, collaborated on an other-worldly exhibit on display through Oct. 31 at the Chehalem Cultural Center. Photo by: David Bates
Finn Connaughton, 6, and Artist Michael Bernard Stevenson Jr., 32, collaborated on an other-worldly exhibit on display through Oct. 31 at the Chehalem Cultural Center. Photo by: David Bates

At a reception last week, Finn stood on the center’s spacious lobby mezzanine gazing at his galaxy — planets, stars, LEGO spaceships, and a few flying creatures — looking a bit awed by the attention but clearly proud of his galactic creation. Below, his parents and extended family, other visitors, and staff looked up, some taking pictures.

Next to him, Stevenson grinned and offered Finn one of many compliments: “You are even more famous in Newberg than I am!”

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Wine country’s art cup overflows with studio tours

Nearly 40 artists open their studios for Art Harvest tours, Currents Gallery showcases fiber art, and a print show comments on the political/cultural moment

Before we get into the most politically incendiary and mesmerizing gallery exhibition in Yamhill County, first things first: The 2019 Art Harvest Studio Tour is upon us, so for those who have never been, here’s how it works.

Starting Friday and running all this weekend and next, nearly 40 artists from one end of Yamhill County to the other will throw open their studio doors to show their work, and in many instances, where and how they work.

The 27th annual event features artists working in a variety of media. Roughly half are painters and illustrators in oil, watercolor, acrylic, pastels, and egg tempura. Among the other half, you’ll find sculptors, potters, photographers, beaders, jewelry-makers, and more. They’re heavily concentrated and split evenly between McMinnville and Newberg, although this year there’s also a sizable showing in the vineyard-draped hills around Amity and in that city’s bustling downtown.

"Young Buck," a bronze by Steve Tyree, is part of the Art Harvest Studio Tour of Yamhill County exhibit at the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg. Photo by: David Bates
“Young Buck,” a bronze by Steve Tyree, is part of the Art Harvest Studio Tour of Yamhill County exhibit in the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg. Photo by: David Bates

The show runs Oct. 4-6 and 11-13. Tour buttons good for the entire run cost $8 and are available at all studio locations, which are listed on the website. A good way to start is swinging by the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg, where the main gallery features work by all of this year’s artists.

Kathleen Buck, who lives and works in the hills north of Newberg, is a long-time local artist who has participated in the tour for 25 years.

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Carving her own path

Two pieces by woodcarver Monica Setziol-Phillips will be installed at Salishan, within steps of work by her famous father, Leroy Setziol

It’s been a struggle for artist Monica Setziol-Phillips to escape the shadow of her famous father, Leroy Setziol, often referred to as the father of woodcarving in the Northwest.

“It’s challenging,” Setziol-Phillips said. “Because people look at me, especially people who knew him, and think of my father. It’s a bit of a fight.”

But with the installation of the latest works of art at Salishan Resort in Gleneden Beach, Setziol-Phillips will literally take her place next to her father, on the grounds of the resort where 15 of his teak carvings are showcased.

The pair of wood carvings, 7- and 8-feet tall, will be celebrated Oct. 4 at the Salishan lodge with an opening talk at 5 p.m. by Setziol-Phillips, followed by a reception. The freestanding columns are carved on four sides from yellow cedar. They will be outside the lodge, visible from the reception area.

Monica Setziol-Phillips carves at the same bench her father, Leroy Setziol, used. A resident of Sheridan, she is former president of the Yamhill County Cultural Coalition. Photo by: Stuart Eagon
Monica Setziol-Phillips carves at the same bench her father, Leroy Setziol, used. Photo by: Stuart Eagon

Setziol-Phillips described the pieces as mostly abstract, but with a recognizable cloud form and sun form. “They come from the energy of the ocean, the abstract patterns that form in the sand, the weather,” she said. “To me, it is a very coastal piece. It has to do with referencing the attitude of the ocean, because it’s always amazed me that the ocean can be so fearsome and yet so soothing. And something to be grateful for. It’s somehow puts you at one.”

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The family that vanished

Author JB Fisher talks about a 61-year-old Portland mystery, this week at Third Street Books in McMinnville

On Thursday evening, Portland author JB Fisher will return to his one-time home of McMinnville to read from and discuss his latest book, Echo of Distant Water: The 1958 Disappearance of Portland’s Martin Family. You’ll find him downtown at Third Street Books, which has proved over the years that small-town indie bookstores can not only survive, but thrive. The Sept. 26 event begins at 6:30 p.m., and the store has a plentiful supply of copies for purchase.

Fisher is the author of another Portland true-crime book, Portland on the Take: Mid-Century Crime Bosses, Civic Corruption & Forgotten Murders, written with JD Chandler and published in 2014. That volume tells the tale of how gangsters gained control of some of the city’s unions during the Red Scare that followed the 1934 West Coast waterfront strike.

It turns out his new book was born right under my nose.

The author, teacher, and historian and his family used to live around the corner from us in McMinnville before they moved to Portland about six years ago. Our kids played together occasionally, so it turns out that I’ve actually visited the house where Echo of Distant Water has its origins.

Portland author JB Fisher came to true-crime via a background in Shakespeare and English Renaissance literature. He notes that popular literature of that time is “full of sensational stories: infanticides and hangings and the seedy underworld of ‘rogues, vagabonds, and sturdy beggars.’”
Portland author JB Fisher came to true-crime via a background in Shakespeare and English Renaissance literature. He notes that popular literature of that time is “full of sensational stories: infanticides and hangings and the seedy underworld of ‘rogues, vagabonds, and sturdy beggars.’” Photo by: Robert Delahanty

Digging through boxes in the garage of the ranch-style home, Fisher found a stack of newspapers left behind by the previous owner, and that was where he first learned about the Martin family. That story goes back to 1958, and boiled down to the most basic facts, it goes like this:

A few days before Christmas of that year, Ken and Barbara Martin of Portland and their three daughters climbed into their 1954 Ford station wagon and headed up the Columbia Gorge to find a Christmas tree. (Their 28-year-old son was stationed in New York with the Navy.) They had lunch at a Hood River diner, then apparently headed back to Portland.

Then they vanished.

Evidence emerged about a month later suggesting that the car had plunged off a cliff into the Columbia River near The Dalles. Early in May 1959, the bodies of the two youngest girls were discovered — one in the Columbia Slough near Camas, Wash., and the other near the Bonneville Dam spillway. The car was never found.

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Falling for wine country arts

Yamhill County kicks into fall with a bevy of gallery shows, a four-night festival of ancient Greek drama, an unsolved mystery, and more

It’s time to roll out the phrase we’ve all been waiting for: Fall Arts Season. In Yamhill County, it’s clearly arrived, it’s busy, and there’s a lot to get through. New visual art exhibitions, live theater, a lecture, live music and an author reading. And that’s all before we even get to the Art Harvest Studio Tour the first week of October. For a preview of that 2-weekend art celebration, be sure to drop by the free show at the Chehalem Cultural Center, where the work of all this year’s artists is on display.

Here’s the balance of September for you, taking it in chronological order, starting with exhibits that opened earlier this month.

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One of 50 woven fabric drawings by Deb Perry-Guetti in a new exhibit at
the Marilyn Affolter Fine Art Gallery in McMinnville.

MARILYN AFFOLTER GALLERY: For the last two years, Deb Perry-Guetti has worked on a series of 50 woven fabric drawings that explore “our interconnectedness and the beauty in our flaws.” The pen and ink drawings are rendered on Kitakata rice paper and suspended in custom frames by clothespins, allowing the light to embrace the organic fragility of the paper.

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Portraits of everyday humanity and Lisbon in transition

Jessica Holder’s photo exhibit features images of her co-workers; Liz Obert's work explores the Portuguese city, from its medieval past to its vibrant present

More often than not, the Community Gallery in Newberg’s Chehalem Cultural Center leans toward work by extremely local artists (i.e., from Newberg or Yamhill County), and that’s the case with A Glimpse at Humanity, a new photographic show by Jessica Holder.

My personal take-away from viewing the work, which consists entirely of large, black-and-white digital portraits of young men and women, was that it was produced by a photographer who had been doing this for many years. That may speak to my relative newness to visual art, but I suspect it has more to do with the fact that Holder, a recent George Fox University graduate, has a remarkable talent for enabling moments that result in portraiture where the subjects appear very much at ease in their own skin. As far as this show is concerned, it may also have something to do with the fact that most of her subjects are fellow co-workers at the local Dutch Bros. Coffee — which famously hires young people who wear their extrovertism on their sleeves.

"Fate's Home" by Jessica Holder
“Fate’s Home” by Jessica Holder

“I was at Dutch Brothers one day, and honestly, I just said to my friend, ‘Would you ever want me to take photos of you?’,” Holder recalled. “And she said, ‘I’ve been wanting to get photos done for over a year!’ That’s what ignited it. I was inspired by the fact that she felt honored by it.”

A Glimpse at Humanity is Holder’s first show and will be on display through Nov. 2. On Sept. 14, there’s something special, particularly for those who might not be fans of posing for a camera: a community portrait event, enabling Holder to stretch beyond the drive-thru and get a broader picture of Newberg and its culture.

Here’s her artist’s statement:

“My artwork in style is very simplistic and consists of a short depth-of-focus and a vision between abstract and personal.  I am inspired to photograph people by each of their unique stories and the challenge of interpreting them visually.  The concept of this series is to find the Beauty in Everyday.  I search for a story behind every face, thus began the journey of photographing the people closest to me: to create something more out of the people I interact with.  What I found was differences, laughter and a whole lot of heart and part of my dream is showcasing it to a wider audience.”

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Jerome Blankenship: ‘I catered my life to fit into music’

The founder of Ships to Roam, which opens McMinnville's Walnut City Music Festival on Friday, says his musical influences range from yodelers to grunge

We’ve arrived at summer’s end and Labor Day draws near, which means the Walnut City Music Festival is primed for launch this weekend.

The seventh-annual family-friendly musical event fills two days with a blast of indie, folk, and pop rock in McMinnville’s Lower City Park, at the west end of the restaurant- and tasting-room-packed downtown. Ossie Bladine started the event with just a few bands in 2013 in the Granary District at the other end of town. Since then, it has evolved into something more substantial.  Audiences can fill up on a dozen bands, both local and out-of-state. It’s a lawn-chairs-and-blankets affair, with kids 12 and under admitted free. Food carts (which in McMinnville is, increasingly, a thing) will be nearby, ready to serve. Tickets for adults are $25 and $35. Be sure to check the website for details on what you can and can’t bring.

It begins at 4:30 p.m. Friday with the homegrown Ships to Roam, which cites among its influences Rogue Wave, Old ‘97s, The War on Drugs, and the Jayhawks. I sat down recently with the band’s founder, Jerome Blankenship, to talk about his life and work. He’s a 1999 graduate of Yamhill-Carlton High School who went on to study music in Portland before hitting the road with a punk band. Along the way, he married and had children, and even gave up music for a while until he had an epiphany: “Rather than having music fit into my life,” he said, “I catered my life to fit into music.”

The following interview was edited for length and clarity.

How did you first encounter music?

Jerome Blankenship: I grew up in a musical family, some of them Irish-American immigrants. On my mom’s side, it was people from Oklahoma who used to yodel competitively. [Blues guitarist] Roy Buchanan is a distant relative, so it’s in my blood. My uncles and cousins had a band in the 1970s and 1980s, and they toured around the Northwest. So at family get-togethers, there were always 10 guitars, a bass, and an accordion, and sometimes even a flute. It got pretty interesting. The people I looked up to all played music, and that’s going to plant a seed.

As you saw all this going on, did you want to sing or play?

I remember having a little-kid guitar and just letting my imagination go. I always wanted to be a bass player because four strings was easier to master than six, and that was the route I took by the time I was 11. Uncles gave me pointers, but then my dad got me lessons in junior high. I took lessons for two or three years, and [the instructor] said, “I can’t teach you anything else.”

Did it come easily?

Not the music theory part. I still struggle with that. As an ear musician, I’ve always been pretty good, being able to pick out where we’re at in the song and how to key things in. But I definitely knew at a young age that I wanted to be a part of it.

What about influences outside your family? What musical cultures were you tuned into?

Growing up, the big thing was grunge. I’d been to a couple concerts when I was younger, but it was everything from Christian rock to bluegrass. I started really going to shows in high school, and that was during the grunge and punk era. Punk was still happening in the ‘90s. Idolizing bands like Soundgarden, Pearl Jam. Nirvana, of course. The Seattle scene was going to inspire anybody. It wasn’t just a music thing. It was like, it’s cool to feel depressed and wear flannel and grow your hair long and not do well in school. It was fashionable.

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