Connecting art to activism

Besides Whitney Jayne's mixed-media show, Yamhill County eases toward fall with poetry readings, Footloose, and a film about minority winemakers

Something about autumn makes the arts seem an integral part of the season. I’m not sure how or why that happened, but I do know my calendar through November is packed with opportunities — theater, concerts, readings, shows, films. In coming weeks, we’ll get to author Reese Kwon in McMinnville; Metropolis at the Elsinore Theater in Salem; not one, but two, Yamhill County art harvest tours; and a live theater scene that includes Miss Julie, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Night of the Living Dead. Let’s go.

This week, I want to spotlight a young artist who caught the attention of McMinnville’s Dan and Nancy Morrow of The Gallery at Ten Oaks a while back and who has her first show there. Whitney Jayne’s mixed media is on display in the gallery on Oregon 99W across from Linfield College. A reception will be from 3 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8, with the exhibit continuing through Nov. 4.

Whitney Jayne

I had coffee with Jayne last month, but before her story, a quick entry from my Department of Full Disclosure (the third in as many weeks): I’ve known the Morrows for many years, and I wrote weekly film reviews for them when they owned and operated a terrific video store, the closest thing to Movie Madness a small town can have. After closing the store in April 2016, they remodeled the 110-year-old, two-story house at 801 S.W. Baker St., and within two months transformed the video store into an art gallery, showcasing both locally produced art and wine.

Jayne’s roots are in the Pacific Northwest. She was born in Seattle, but spent most of her life from age 9 in Utah, where she considered several areas of study that had little to do with art before finally embracing what she loved. She received her Bachelor’s in Fine Art in 2010 with a minor in Women and Gender studies and Psychology from Utah State University, where she had one of those incredible discoveries that artists make when something goes wrong.

Having come out as gay in what she calls “uber-conservative” Utah, Jayne was working on her final school project, Ballerina Boots, a children’s story she wrote, illustrated and published about self-love and empowerment. “I think the earlier you can learn to accept yourself and not put people in boxes, the better the world’s going to be,” she said, reflecting on the themes in Ballerina Boots. “That’s a message kids need to get right now. I did some school readings, and the kids got it.”

The images in the book were done in oil, and a little ways into it she had a visceral reaction to the paint — nausea, shakiness, and headaches. Worried that an art career was in jeopardy, she found support in a graphic design shop and also a design course where she discovered painting software. She finished the book, and points out that you can tell about halfway through where she stopped using oils and went digital. Copies of the book are available at the gallery.

She loved the process of electronic or digital painting, but she missed the texture. So she shifted to a mixed-media style, which included painting with acrylic, pastels, and other media layered on top of her digital paintings. “I still have my oils,” she said. “Sometimes I use them for a little bit of detail on my paintings, but I still haven’t done a painting with them. I’ve discovered some gels that you can add to acrylic and make it more like oil, more glossy, and it adds some body to it.” I particularly like one she did of the iconic marquee on the (permanently closed) Mack Theater in downtown McMinnville, not noticing that she deliberately placed it on a building that’s actually across the street.

Whitney Jayne’s “Third Street” transposes the marquee of McMinnville’s Mack Theater to a building across the street. “Third Street,” acrylic and digital, with wax edge and handmade frame, 24 x 36 inches.

Visually, Jayne draws inspiration from a variety of sources — lyrics, quotes, introspection. Ultimately, she works with the material to convey the theme of connections — between people, to animals and to the environment. She described it last week on the Talking About Art program with Joel Zak on Salem’s community radio station KMUZ FM.

Jayne noted that she struggled because she felt like she had to pick just one thing to paint, and she didn’t want that restriction. After some reflection, she decided that what called to her in her work was connection. “I’m very driven by that. I think it’s very important in our world today,” she said. “I think it gives life meaning, and I think it’s the solution to so much of our brokenness.”

Facing her own challenges, including the early death of her mother, inspired Jayne to find ways to foster connection and blend her art with activism, all of which she explains on her website.

Her Destination Connection Project includes a free treasure hunt app that uses art, social media and challenge games (“Think Ice Bucket Challenge meets the McMenamins Passport,” she said.) to forge connections.

She’s developing the Paint It Forward project with McMinnville’s Hope on the Hill organization, with financial support from a Ford Family Foundation grant. Its aim is to find solutions for homelessness and “to build bridges between all of Yamhill County’s demographics.” For every piece of artwork she sells, she donates a portion of the proceeds to social, environmental and animal protection organizations.

Jayne is a social media animal, so beyond checking out her work at Ten Oaks, there are plenty of ways to connect with her: Facebook (@DestinationConnectionProject) and Instagram (@IamWhitneyJayne). It’s all available at her website (where you can also purchase her work) right here.

WHILE WE’RE AT THE GALLERY AT TEN OAKS, let’s backtrack a couple of days and note that Thursday, Sept. 6, is Poetry Night. The gallery hosts the program organized by the McMinnville Public Library once a month. Kelly Terwilliger is first on deck after the summer hiatus and will read some of her work before an open mic session. Terwilliger grew up on the Oregon Coast and has been published in a variety of journals and chapbooks. KBOO sat down with her in 2017 for this interview, if you’d like a preview. The event begins at 6 p.m.

FRIDAY IS OPENING NIGHT for Gallery Players of Oregon’s first fall production, Footloose, a stage adaptation by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie of the 1984 film, with music by Tom Snow and lyrics by Pitchford. The play, on Gallery’s mainstage, promises to be a foot-stompin’ affair, with longtime choreographer and dance instructor Kathleen Van De Veere in the director’s chair. Noah Miller plays a lad named Ren (Kevin Bacon in the film) who moves from Chicago to a small town where the local preacher (Gallery regular Richard Pratt, in the John Lithgow role) has prohibited dancing. Ren falls for the preacher’s daughter (Stephanie Koffroth). There will be 11 performances, Friday and Saturday shows start at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees start at 3 p.m. Tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for students and seniors. Call 503-472-2227 to reserve yours.

Poet José Angel Araguz reads Sept. 11 at Linfield College. Photo courtesy: Linfield College

MOVING INTO THE SECOND week of September, more poetry is to be had on Tuesday, with Linfield College’s José Angel Araguz kicking off Readings at the Nick, a series for authors and poets held in the college library. He’s an assistant professor of English and creative writing and also a CantoMundo Fellow — that’s a national organization that cultivates the community of Latinx poets through workshops, symposia and readings. He is the author of the collections Everything We Think We Hear, Small Fires, and Until We Are Level Again. Araguz also serves as an editor for the online journal Right Hand Pointing and is on the editorial team of Portland-based Airlie Press (which has published Terwilliger’s work). He runs the poetry blog The Friday Influence and the Instagram poetry project @poetryamano. As are all Readings at the Nick author nights, this one’s free and open to the public. It’s at 5 p.m. Sept. 11 in the Nicholson Library on the south side of the Linfield campus.

FINALLY, A FILM ABOUT WINEMAKERS, particularly those of color and from the LGBTQ community. The challenges and accomplishments of these talented minorities in Oregon’s exploding wine industry are the subject of the new documentary Red, White & Black: An Oregon Wine Story, the “passion project” of Bertony Faustin. The film identifies Faustin, proprietor of Abbey Creek Vineyard in North Plains, as Oregon’s first black winemaker. Directed by Jerry Bell Jr., the film screened in Portland last month and now plays in the heart of wine country, thanks to a sponsorship by the Marka and Thomas Hughes Endowed Wine Lectureship Fund and the Evanstad Center for Wine Education at Linfield College. The free screening will be at 7 p.m. Sept. 18 in the Richard and Lucille Ice Auditorium in Melrose Hall at Linfield. A reception will follow in Jonasson Hall.

ARTS JOURNAL: I brought my 40-year-old paperback copy of Tolkien’s The Silmarillion (which I’ve never read) on a beach camping trip last week and became utterly absorbed and fascinated by it. Also, since virtually all of my time with Ursula Le Guin has been spent with her nonfiction, I picked up A Wizard of Earthsea, also for the first time. Nearly finished with the latter and am somehow keeping these two fantastic worlds separate in my mind. One comes to books when one is ready. For reasons I don’t entirely understand, I was ready for both.

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