Clairissa 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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