Envisioning the human body — and life itself

Artists Tammy Jo Wilson and Amanda Triplett explore the beauty and metamorphosis of the organic form in a show at the Chehalem Cultural Center

Biological Dissonance, a collection of paintings and sculpture by Portland-area artists Tammy Jo Wilson and Amanda Triplett, is the newest exhibit to take up residence in the Chehalem Cultural Center’s largest gallery. While I was visiting it recently, two other names came to mind: David Cronenberg and Russian art critic Aleksandr Voronsky.

The former, of course, is the Canadian filmmaker who in 1986 gave us a gruesome remake of The Fly and is best known as a pioneer in so-called “body horror” cinema. The lesser known Voronsky wrote in the early 20th-century that art — all art — is, to varying degrees, the “cognition of life” itself.

To cite Cronenberg is perhaps unfair, as there’s nothing in the Newberg-based gallery that is extreme or gross, nothing for shock value, nothing that would be obviously at home in one of his stomach-churning films (although a couple of blob-like textile sculptures, which are beautiful, come close). The key parallel is artistic focus: a sustained and deeply considered exploration of the human body — from the recognizable shape of a single form all the way down to a hair, or even the follicle that contains it. Or an ovum. Life itself.

“Plasmic,” by Amanda Triplett (fiber installation from salvaged textiles, 12 by 60 by 16 inches, 2019) and (in the background) “Bare Bones,” by Tammy Jo Wilson (encaustic on panel, 18 by 24 inches, 2017). Photo by: David Bates
“Plasmic,” by Amanda Triplett (2019, fiber installation from salvaged textiles, 12 x 60 x 16 inches) and (in the background) “Bare Bones,” by Tammy Jo Wilson (2017, encaustic on panel, 18 x 24 inches). Photo by: David Bates

The show is described by Chehalem’s curators as “an exhibition about the irrepressible metamorphosis of the human body and beauty within the organic form.”

According to the statement, Wilson and Triplett “blend their creative expressions in this compelling and tactile exhibit about the biological body, through works of encaustics, paintings, prints, fiber and textile installations. Pairing together their individual approaches to process and medium, they build a visual dialogue expressing the visceral nature of the vessels to which all humans are confined and examining the relationship between flesh and bone; and society, cultural experience and self-awareness.”

“Life Goes On,” by Tammy Jo Wilson (encaustic and ceramic on panel, 20 by 16 inches, 2019) Photo by: David Bates
“Life Goes On,” by Tammy Jo Wilson (2019, encaustic and ceramic on panel, 20 x 16 inches). Photo by: David Bates

Wilson, an Oregon City resident, works in the art department at Lewis & Clark College as the visual arts and technology program manager. She has exhibited her work nationally, and in 2017, she and her husband, artist Owen Premore, founded the nonprofit Art in Oregon, which works to “foster culturally rich regional communities through partnerships, advocacy and investment in artists, businesses, educational spaces and community spaces.”

Portland resident Triplett’s speciality is sculptural fiber-work that uses salvaged textiles. She has also shown work beyond Oregon, and she recently created a “tactile, sculptural nest for an inclusive, multi-sensory group exhibit” in Paragon Gallery on Portland Community College’s Cascade campus.

Biological Dissonance runs through Aug. 30. The Chehalem Cultural Center is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday at 415 E Sheridan St. in Newberg.

IT’S STILL A FEW WEEKS OFF, but because reservations are required, it’s worth noting now that the Willamette Valley Chamber Music Festival’s 2019 season (announced last week after I turned in a supposedly complete schedule of local musical offerings this summer) will include several performances at wineries in Yamhill County.

The festival is exploring the theme of Old World, New World through works written by both established and emerging composers. In a series of concerts Aug. 3-18 that pair wine with music, the festival will feature works by Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms, as well as Caroline Shaw, Elisabeth Jacquet, Amy Beach, and celebrated Oregon violist/composer Kenji Bunch. They’ll be at J. Christopher Wines’ barrel room on Aug. 3 and 4,  Archery Summit Winery on Aug. 10, Elk Cove Vineyards on Aug. 11 and Sokol Blosser Winery on Aug. 17 and 18. Ticket information here.

FOR THE ARTISTICALLY INCLINED, this weekend is one of your best bets for a day trip to Salem, where the 70th annual Salem Art Fair & Festival touches down Friday through Sunday, July 19-21, at Bush’s Pasture Park, 600 Mission St., for a weekend of art, music and culture. Youth 16 and younger (and Oregon Trail Card holders) get in free, and it’s $5 a day for the rest of us, or $10 for a three-day pass.

W.O.E. 1 (detail), by MOsley WOtta (mixed media on panel, 2019). Photo by: David Bates
W.O.E. 1 (detail), by MOsley WOtta (2019, mixed media on panel). Photo by: David Bates

ARTS JOURNAL: I was in Central Oregon last week and spent an afternoon at the High Desert Museum just outside of Bend. The exhibition Desert Perspectives: Water Shapes the West is an absolute must-see, with dazzling work by MOsley WOtta (Jason Graham) along with fellow artists Ka’ila Farrell-Smith, Dana Reason, and the Harmonic Laboratory. Also dropped by the fabulous comic-book shop Pegasus Books in downtown Bend, where I picked up a few back issues of Doctor Strange and a copy of Neal Stephenson’s latest slab of a novel, Fall; or Dodge in Hell. Hit the 200-page mark at around midnight Sunday. Utterly engaging hard sci-fi. 

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This story is supported in part by a grant from the Yamhill County Cultural Coalition, Oregon Cultural Trust, and Oregon Community Foundation.

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