domestic landscapes

‘Domestic Landscapes’: Exploring the residue of lives lived

As we continue to hunker down, a show at the Chehalem Cultural Center considers the ramble of clutter that makes up home

Filing the first report, the first journalistic act, of a new year ought to feel like a fresh start. But of course it doesn’t. Not after all that. Not when this global trauma has yet to resolve itself in a definitive way.

But as the pandemic plays itself out, artists continue to detect and translate the roil of life, and even anticipate it. So it’s not surprising that an exhibition at the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg feels perfect for this moment. It’s not the first time. Last fall, as 1 million acres of Oregon went up in flames, a show on the anthropocene featured startling images of fire. And now, as many of us remain hunkered down at home, we have Domestic Landscapes, curated by Carissa Burkett, bringing together four artists and their meditations on spaces they have lived in.

Laundry, lots of it, is a theme in Bethany Hays’ work, such as “Her Majesty” (watercolor on paper, 30 by 48 inches, 2012).
Laundry, lots of it, is a theme in Bethany Hays’ work, such as “Her Majesty” (watercolor on paper, 30 by 48 inches, 2012).

Burkett schedules exhibitions as much as a year in advance, so this one was conceived before COVID-19, but it clearly resonates now. It opened Dec. 1, shortly before Yamhill County went into a partial lockdown. The show runs through Jan. 29, and as of this writing, the building was closed except by appointment. The work may be seen on the center’s website, with unavoidably mixed results. Some pieces, such as Zemula Barr’s digital photography, work better online than others — for instance, the sprawling watercolors by Bethany Hays. Although it’s better to see the work and be physically present with it rather than look at it on a screen, it’s worth taking time to visit each artist’s website and check out their other work.

“This has been a long time in the planning,” Burkett said last month during a Zoom artists’ reception, adding, “Many artists that I’m really interested in make work about domestic spaces.” The show’s origins apparently lay in a pre-pandemic Christmas party, where Burkett saw one of Hays’ watercolors. “I was like ‘Wow, this is a beautiful landscape piece.’ That was where I first got the idea of a show that explored domestic landscapes.”

Hays’ watercolors depicting towering piles of textiles — linen, laundry, bedsheets, etc. — were inspired by her early years as a mother.