Given the confluence of autumn colors and great art, it’s tempting to employ hyperbole when talking about Yamhill County’s Art Harvest Studio Tour, but I’ll spare you a Thesaurus Drop and just lay out the facts.
The 26th annual event includes 40 artists, working in virtually every medium imaginable: watercolor, oil, acrylic, bronze, copper, steel, glass, stone, pastels, charcoal, silver, wood, paper, clay, fiber, tiles, beeswax, digital, and mixed media. It kicks off Friday and runs six days over two weekends. You can visit one, a dozen or all 40 artists if you have time. They’re concentrated in Yamhill County’s two largest cities, McMinnville and Newberg, but you’ll also find artists in Amity, Dundee, Carlton, Yamhill, Sheridan, and Willamina.
The cost to jump into this self-guided tour of local color and creativity? Eight bucks.
Sure, on any weekend, you can spend a day visiting galleries and exhibitions, but this is the one time of year when local artists invite the public into their studios (which often are also their homes), where they answer questions, educate, do demonstrations. Yes, you can buy stuff, but that’s not ultimately the point.
Last week I reached out to a handful of participating artists, both new and returning, to get their take. Of those, none illustrated the point quite so well as paper carver Doug Roy. He’s been working his magic with paper for more than a quarter-century and has participated in Art Harvest for two decades.
He told me this story.
“A lady was looking at a piece I had, a tree with two bluebirds in it,” Roy recalled. “She came over to where I was working and said she loved the birds in the tree picture but asked if I would consider doing a similar piece for her, except instead of bluebirds she would like to have two cardinals.
“In my head, I’m kind of thinking, ‘If she liked the picture, why not just take it as it was made?’ Then she said, ‘I’ll tell you why. When our father died back in New Jersey, us kids all went back to help and be with Mom. One day when we were cleaning up in the kitchen, we looked out the window and saw a male cardinal sitting on the tree just outside. That was our favorite bird and we all agreed that was Dad keeping an eye on Mom and us. Years later when our mother died, when went back home to get the house in order, we were again working in the kitchen and saw sitting in that same tree a male and a female cardinal.’
“Needless to say,” Roy concluded, “I made her her picture.”
The Art Harvest Studio Tour of Yamhill County, a presentation by the Arts Alliance of Yamhill County, is about community and connections. It’s about wide-eyed kids huddled around Roy’s workbench as he cuts colored paper into impossibly tiny pieces and makes amazing pictures with them. It’s about visiting with working artists, often in the physical space where they paint, carve and sculpt, where they make pieces they’re proud of and where they make mistakes and “happy accidents.” It’s about seeing it up close for yourself.
“This connection goes further than anything a gallery can offer,” said James Dowlen, who has been showing paintings on the tour since 2006. This year he’s rolling out some drawings, the foundation for all his painting, printmaking, and other media. “Meeting artists face-to-face in their work environment, asking questions and maybe seeing a demonstration bring the public closer to an understanding and appreciation of art.”
It’s not, he adds, a one-way dialogue.
“Discussing my art with someone who shows an interest so often becomes a profound experience for both of us,” Dowlen continued. “It’s amazing how often conversation about an art piece can have quite an emotional effect or become enlightening and very memorable. It often feels like an honor and a privilege to enter into these discussions.”
Joining the discussion this year, as always, is a crop of new artists. A fourth of this year’s roster are in it for the first time. Two offer a unique opportunity: Julia and Mark Hamilton of Carlton are the only artists this year whose work consists of encaustic painting — that’s beeswax with pigment.
I visited their studio last month for a sneak peek. It’s just down the road from the mural next to Carlton City Hall seen here last week in a home they had built and moved into last year. They’ve been painting on and off since they were kids and have shown work at Art in the High Desert in Bend, but it’s only in recent years that they started working with encaustic painting and mixed media, which is also known as hot-wax painting.
“It was like a light bulb went off,” Mark Hamilton told me. “The depth you can get with it and the physicality, the ability to do different things. And we both saw the opportunity to add natural elements to the pigment, like bark.”
“A lot of people have never heard of encaustic,” Julia Hamilton added. The word itself comes from the Greek enkaustikos, which means “to burn in.” It goes back to ancient times and has been used both by indigenous societies and famous artists, such as Diego Rivera. “It’s nice that some people are just blown away by it. I just enjoy their expression, seeing something new, their reactions.”
In Newberg, Bradley Speer has moved into the “old guard” of Art Harvest artists. He makes functional pottery in a studio that’s next to a flower farm he started a couple of years ago. Speer observed that the number of artists who participate in the tour has remained roughly the same, but more people are taking the tour because of “a resurgence in people wanting to learn how to make things.” Like everyone else, he’ll have pieces for sale this weekend and next, and — like everyone else — what he speaks most passionately about is the opportunity to meet people and have conversations.
“It is a rare opportunity to walk into another person’s work space and have them talk openly about what it is they do and how they do it,” he said. “I have taken ideas from conversations I have had with people taking the tour and run with them. Actually, the conversations and interactions with the patrons of the tour are the best part for me.”
If you’re planning to go, let me recommend a game plan. If you’re in Newberg, go to the Chehalem Cultural Center, which is showing pieces by all of this year’s artists, and get an $8 tour entry button, which is good for both weekends. (Also in Newberg, Pulp & Circumstance and Cusick Picture Frame have buttons for sale.)
In McMinnville, drop by The Gallery at Ten Oaks, Pacific Frame and Gallery, Currents Gallery, or The Merri Artist to get your button and program. Another option: Visit the website, do some preliminary planning, then buy a pass at the first studio you visit. Don’t worry about trips that take you down unfamiliar roads; the studios are well signed.
Whatever you do, don’t miss a chance to visit Marilyn Worrix’s amazing home studio, where she makes magnificent, hand-crafted artist books. The upstairs apartment in McMinnville’s award-winning downtown is a work of art all by itself. That’s also where you’ll find Roy, as well as Adam Rupniewski, who works in mixed media, oil pastel, collage, oil, and acrylic colors. There’s no wheelchair access, but there is a chair lift up those long stairs. You’ll find it at 516 N.E. Third St.
THERE’S ANOTHER GOOD REASON TO VISIT NEWBERG, because an extraordinary exhibit opened Monday at the Chehalem Cultural Center. Yukiyo Kawana’s Suspended Moment: Fat Man and Little Boy, done in collaboration with Meshi Chavez, a Portland choreographer, movement teacher and Butoh dancer, is on display in the grand lobby. In her artist’s statement, Kawana writes that she has designed a space that is “defined by replicas of the Fat Man and Little Boy bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. These are made of WWII-era kimonos collected by my grandmother and stitched together with hair — melding my own DNA as a third-generation atomic bomb survivor with the objects of harm.” A short promotional video is available here. Better yet, see it in person. It’s there through Nov. 4.
FINALLY, THERE WILL BE DANCING: The Chehalem Cultural Center on Friday kicks off its celebration of Latin American Heritage Month with Teatro Milagro’s presentation of ¡Corre! ¡Corre! (Run! Run!), a play by Ajai Terrazas Tripathi, directed by Sarah Andrews and choreographed by Gabriela Portuguez. It uses “mythical imagery, dance movement and poetic narrative” to showcase the Tarahumara, the indigenous people in the northwestern region of Mexico who are known for their incredible long-distance running. One night only: Friday, Oct. 5. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., the show starts at 6 p.m. Tickets are $5, and free for seniors and youth under 18.
ARTS JOURNAL: On Friday, as a Senate committee weighed whether to forward to the full Senate the Supreme Court nomination of a man accused of sexual assault, I was reminded of the healing power of art — indeed, the urgent need for it — in times like these. Having already overdosed on Thursday’s horror show, I was ready for a mental health break accompanied by 89.9 KQAC All Classical Portland.
Just as I was about to get offline, I saw a comment on Twitter from an American writer living in Sri Lanka that touched me deeply, an open call for art as a spiritual antidote:
“My heart is broken,” Kelsye Nelson wrote. “Deep grief. Please write me something about the ocean. Poem, prose, or lovely line.”
I’ve written a poem or two, but nothing about oceans, and wasn’t about to write one on the spot. But I remembered one I’d seen on a wall the previous weekend at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. So I sent it her way.
It’s by Lord Byron, a few lines from Canto IV of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage:
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, with music in its roar.
I hope it helped.