Clairissa and Colby Stephens

Where earth meets sky

Clairissa and Colby Stephens' multimedia exhibit at Chehalem Cultural Center explores horizon lines

This is the late spring lull before Yamhill County’s summer stage productions come to life. The Aquilon Music Festival is still a month away, though the wise would do well to buy tickets now. Tickets are also on sale for the 8th annual Wildwood MusicFest on the beautiful Roshambo ArtFarm in Willamina, like Aquilon, also set for July. A crew started working on the set for The Graduate at Gallery Theater in McMinnville last weekend. We’re still awaiting the final schedule for music downtown in the plaza, and Willamette Shakespeare’s As You Like It, set for August, feels like forever away.

If you’re in quieter, more contemplative mood, here’s a show for you: Stratifying the Unknown, an exhibition and installation by the husband-wife team of Clairissa and Colby Stephens. You’ll find it occupying the Parrish Gallery of the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg through June 28. I visited it last week and encountered a Portland TV crew preparing a feature on the place.

Stratifying the Unknown explores “the ways horizon lines shape our understanding of place and space and one’s location within it,” according to the exhibition notes. It’s a collaborative effort by artists who obviously understand what neuroscience and psychology tell us about architecture: that our physical environment, the very space we occupy, affects how we see, think, and feel about the world.

“When Earth Becomes Sky 360° ” by Colby Stephens (photograph on watercolor paper)

The Stephens did a lot of their thinking about 520 miles southeast of Newberg, in the Black Rock Desert — the supposed setting for the 1955 John Sturges thriller Bad Day at Black Rock. (The film actually was shot in California in a “town” that was built for the movie.) The couple was living in Reno in 2011, which gave them an opportunity to explore a physical space completely different from the Willamette Valley, where wooded hills, farmland, and subdivisions mark the outer limits of our field of vision.

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Lines everywhere on the Yamhill County arts horizon

You'll find them in exhibitions exploring horizon lines and ikebana, and the plucked strings of a guitar. Plus, McMinnville Short Film Festival has a new leader

It’s one of those weeks where there’s so much going on, we have just enough space to squeeze in enough about everything for you to click ahead and decide whether to investigate further. Let’s go.

THE CHEHALEM CULTURAL CENTER IN NEWBERG has rotated in a new exhibit worth checking out. Oregon City’s artistic duo Clairissa and Colby Stephens are Stratifying the Unknown with a collection of drawings, paintings and sculptures “that explore the ways horizon lines shape our understanding of place and space and one’s location in it.” According to the artists’ statement:

"Field of View | Black Rock Desert" is part of the “Stratifying the Unknown” show by Clairissa and Colby Stephens in the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg.

“Field of View | Black Rock Desert” is part of the “Stratifying the Unknown” show by Clairissa and Colby Stephens in the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg.

“We became captivated by horizon lines when we moved to Reno, NV, in 2011. Distinctly different from our Western Oregon stomping grounds, we were captivated by the desert and the 360-degree view of horizon lines that it offered. As avid backcountry explorers, we use a compass for navigation: a process that is heavily dependent on horizon lines. And so we began to consider the various ways that horizon lines impact our lives. But lines do not simply demarcate the boundaries of three dimensional space: They also trace the ways that humans, animals, plants, and water move through it.”

You’ll find it in the Parrish Gallery through June 28. And don’t miss the Art for All Youth project in the Community Gallery, the fruit of an artist-led partnership with Providence’s Outreach program to work with students on ceramics, paint-pouring and watercolor. Runs through June 1.

Portland filmmaker Justin Zimmerman is on board as executive director of the McMinnville Short Film Festival, which is accepting entries for the 2020 event.

Portland filmmaker Justin Zimmerman is on board as executive director of the McMinnville Short Film Festival, which is accepting entries for 2020.

THE NEXT McMINNVILLE SHORT FILM Festival is nearly a year off, but there’s news to report. Portland filmmaker Justin Zimmerman, whose work has appeared in more than a hundred festivals around the world, has been named executive director of the event. Festival co-founders Nancy and Dan Morrow, who operate The Gallery at Ten Oaks in McMinnville, will remain involved in the expanding, filmmaker-friendly enterprise as board members, but this will mark the first time a professional filmmaker (and Portlander) has been in charge of steering the ship.

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