Juergen Eckstein

Final call for a Newport original

Art by the late Juergen Eckstein is included in an online sale and show at the Newport Visual Arts Center

A three-month online art exhibit at the Newport Visual Arts Center will showcase Oregon artists and raise money for the artists and the center. It also is likely to be one of the last opportunities to buy a piece of art by the late Juergen Eckstein, who died Oct. 31 at age 77, following a stroke.

“Juergen’s art is just stacked downstairs,” said his wife, Dianne Eckstein. “He has so much work. It seems to me it should be in a good place.”

Juergen Eckstein invited all of Newport to join “The Yellow Umbrella Project” in 2004. “First individuals, forming trickles as others join creating streams of yellow umbrellas as they move closer towards the center of Nye Beach where they gather as a sea of yellow,” he wrote on his website. Photo courtesy: Gary Lahman
Juergen Eckstein invited all of Newport to join “The Yellow Umbrella Project” in 2004. “First individuals, forming trickles as others join creating streams of yellow umbrellas as they move closer towards the center of Nye Beach where they gather as a sea of yellow,” he wrote on his website. Photo courtesy: Gary Lahman

Eckstein, who is considering a move, gave two paintings and one sculpture to the city to be displayed in Newport City Hall.

Juergen Eckstein was a German native who traveled the world before settling with Dianne in Newport in 2000. A familiar presence around Newport, he co-founded the For ArtSake artist co-op and created the driftwood sculptures that stand outside the Newport Performing Arts Center and the Visual Arts Center. He was self-taught and worked in almost all mediums, including oil wash, wood, and pottery, his wife said.

“If he found a stone or piece of wood, he’d see something in it and go from there. He’d find something on the beach and make something of it,” she said. “He was always seeing something in an object that I wouldn’t. I think he just had a very wonderful imagination.”

The Oregon Coast Online Art Show, open to artists who have shown previously at the center, who live on the coast, or who are members of the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts (OCCA), received more than 120 submissions. All of the work has been organized and presented remotely. The show goes live Friday, May 29, and continues through Sept. 7.

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Going, going, gone: 2019 in review

A look back at the ups and downs and curious side trips of the year on Oregon's cultural front

What a year, right? End of the teens, start of the ’20s, and who knows if they’ll rattle or roar?

But today we’re looking back, not ahead. Let’s start by getting the big bad news out of the way. One thing’s sure in Oregon arts and cultural circles: 2019’s the year the state’s once-fabled craft scene took another staggering punch square on the chin. The death rattles of the Oregon College of Art and Craft – chronicled deeply by ArtsWatch’s Barry Johnson in a barrage of news stories and analyses spiced with a couple of sharp commentaries, Democracy and the arts and How dead is OCAC? – were heard far and wide, and the college’s demise unleashed a flood of anger and lament.

The crashing and burning of the venerable craft college early in the year followed the equally drawn-out and lamented closure of Portland’s nationally noted Museum of Contemporary Craft in 2016, leaving the state’s lively crafts scene without its two major institutions. In both cases the sense that irreversible decisions were being made with scant public input, let alone input from crafters themselves, left much of the craft community fuming. When, after the closure, ArtsWatch published a piece by the craft college’s former president, Denise Mullen, the fury hit the fan with an outpouring of outraged online comments, most by anonymous posters with obvious connections to the school.

Vanessa German, no admittance apply at office, 2016, mixed media assemblage, 70 x 30 x 16 inches, in the opening exhibit of the new Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at Portland State University. Photo: Spencer Rutledge, courtesy PSU

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Farewell to a free spirit

Newport's Juergen Eckstein -- painter, sculptor, traveler, and community presence -- died Oct. 31 following a stroke

My first encounter with Juergen Eckstein came not long after I moved to the Coast. I was attempting to learn the art of pottery at a little do-it-yourself pottery shop in Nye Beach. Most of us were making rudimentary bowls or mugs or whatever was the latest trend in Pottery 101. In strolled Eckstein, balancing a large piece of plywood with a handful of ceramic faces gazing skyward. Even unfinished, those faces had a soulfulness that made them seem more than art.

Juergen Eckstein carved “Absence of Emptiness” out of a 16-foot chunk of redwood that had washed up on the beach years previously.  He worked on the sculpture from 2007 to 2012, when it was dedicated outside the Newport Visual Arts Center.  Photo by: Karen Pate
Juergen Eckstein carved “Absence of Emptiness” out of a 16-foot chunk of redwood that had washed up on the beach years previously. He worked on the sculpture from 2007 to 2012, when it was dedicated outside the Newport Visual Arts Center. Photo by: Karen Pate

Eckstein died Oct. 31 due to complications following a stroke. He was 77. His death has shadowed the Newport community accustomed to seeing him and his work around town — the driftwood sculptures outside the Performing Arts Center and Visual Arts Center, the paintings in shops and restaurants, the various pieces at For Artsake, the local artist co-op he co-founded. He’ll be remembered for his art, but equally so for the way he lived.

The German native liked beer, was passionate about the environment, eschewed medicine, and traveled the world with his family. He settled with his wife, Dianne, in Newport in 2000.

“I think he was just a really free spirit,” said Cynthia Jacobi, friend and fellow artist. “He always liked to say he was an unschooled autodidact. He had a unique way of looking at things.”

Jacobi isn’t sure when she met Eckstein, only that he’s one of those friends who seems to have always been part of her life. She does recall when she first got to know him. In 2004, Eckstein launched The Yellow Umbrella Project.

Juergen Eckstein invited all of Newport to join “The Yellow Umbrella Project” in 2004. “First individuals, forming trickles as others join creating streams of yellow umbrellas as they move closer towards the center of Nye Beach where they gather as a sea of yellow,” he wrote on his website. Photo courtesy: Gary Lahman
In 2004, Juergen Eckstein invited all of Newport to join “The Yellow Umbrella Project,” to create what he described as “streams of yellow umbrellas as they move closer towards the center of Nye Beach where they gather as a sea of yellow.” Photo courtesy: Gary Lahman

“Juergen’s idea was that people would get yellow umbrellas and start walking from wherever they lived or different places in Nye Beach and meet on the beach at a certain  time. And if you were looking from above, you would see all these rays of yellow all converging onto Nye Beach. All these people … just went to the beach with their umbrellas and said hello and went home. Everybody loved it.”

So much so, they urged Eckstein to make it an annual tradition.

“He said, ‘I only do things once. I don’t repeat,’” Jacobi recalled.

In 2013, Eckstein drove with friends to Burning Man, a temporary city dedicated to art and community that sets up annually in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. He took with him a 20-foot sculpture dubbed the Wolkenkuckkucksheim. In a feature in the Newport News-Times, Eckstein described Wolkenkuckkucksheim variously as “a place in the clouds where you feel at home, or it can refer to a place in the clouds where the world is at peace, or it can mean a man has his head in the clouds, meaning he’s a little bit nuts.”

Eckstein was also a painter, mixing paints from his own recipe, including gold flake, and painting with a small brush, Jacobi said.

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