Oregon artists

Lillian Pitt: 10,000 Years Through Art

Stage & Studio: Dmae Robert talks with the noted Warm Springs artist about friendships, mentoring, Covid, and the Indigenous traditions that shape her art

Dmae Roberts first met Lillian Pitt when noted writer Cheryl Strayed curated an artists  section of a TEDx talk in 2013 that included Roberts and Pitt. Though she was familiar with Pitt’s work, it was a pleasure for Roberts to finally meet her. In her TEDx talk, Pitt shared the stage with Toma Villa, a young artist she was mentoring.

In her new curated art show Pitt is again sharing space with Villa and other Native American artists, two others she’s also mentored. That is the giving spirit of Lillian Pitt. Her new show Lillian Pitt Solo Show: Ancestors Known and Unknown runs through May 1 at the Columbia Center for the Arts in Hood River.

Lillian Pitt. Photo: Dennis Maxwell

Pitt features her glass art based on petroglyphs for this exhibit. Other artists and artwork she curated for this show include photography by Joe Cantrell (Cherokee Nation) and contemporary paintings by Sara Siestreem (Hanis-Coos Tribe),  large-scale mixed media wood carved masks by Toma Villa (Yakama Nation), found-object sculptures by Debora Lorang (friend of the Columbia Gorge Native Americans), and  aesthetically rich oils on canvas by Analee Fuentes (Mexican Heritage).

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Matt Blairstone: Oh, the horror!

A Portland comics artist takes on a monster project: "Green Inferno," a 200-page comic and short-story anthology with 18 artists in 6 countries

Matt Blairstone makes horror comics happen. He writes grim scary tales. He puts artists to work. He builds communities. He learns. In recent years he’s created and published his own intensely personal, delightfully deranged tale of crazed, freakish scientists battling for dominance over a world gone mad. Mad Doctors featured, among other things, what appeared to be a gourd with the face of Doctor Doom and a horned cyclops in a lab coat (plus a character who was an avatar of Kate, his wife of seven years).

These days, Blairstone is in the midst of building his craziest endeavor yet – a 200-page comic book anthology called Green Inferno: The World Celebrates Your Demise. Inferno, to be published by his Tenebrous Press, is a collection of comics and short stories from eighteen artists creating in six countries, thematically united by what Blairstone has coined “terrestrial horror.” It’s ambitious, and to make it happen, Blairstone has set up a Kickstarter campaign that, as of this writing, is about midway through its allotted time and has raised more than $5,000 of its $9,000 goal.

Matt Blairstone: storyteller in pictures and words.

What does Blairstone mean by “terrestrial horror”? Like a lot of artists’ work these days, the germ of Blairstone’s vision is rooted in the context of COVID. “[The Green Inferno] is kind of a summation of the pandemic,” he says. “We made a trip to Lincoln City in September. It was our first excursion out of the house, our first attempt at some kind of normal trip. We were going to meet Kate’s mom and grandmother at the coast in Lincoln City and stay at a big cabin for a couple of days. The day we arrive there were these huge, violent windstorms that knocked the power out. The next day those windstorms had blown in all the forest fires. We had to get evacuated. We got back and suddenly I’m watching the AQI on my phone every fifteen minutes. The windows are shut. The sky is this crazy yellow and orange color. That was the low point of quarantine for me and Kate because we had taken for granted being able to have fresh air, and then to be trapped inside after so many months without the option of going outside –” he stops. “You were here, you know.”

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The Artists Series 5: Visual Artists

The creators: Ten final portraits by K.B. Dixon of Oregon artists who are helping to define what Portland and the state look like


TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY K.B. DIXON


This is the fifth and final installment of portraits in The Artists Series—a Series focused on the talented people who have made invaluable contributions to the art, character, and culture of this city and state; people whose various gifts have enriched our lives and whose legacies are destined to be part of our cultural history.

Parts 1 and 2 of the series are dedicated to Oregon writers, the artists working in words; Parts 3, 4, and 5 are dedicated to the artists working in visual media—our gifted painters, sculptors, and photographers.

My hope has been to call attention to the remarkable work of these remarkable people and, as always, to produce a decent photograph—a photograph that honors the medium’s allegiance to reality, that preserves for myself and others a unique and honest sense of the subject.


MEL KATZ: Sculptor


“The pieces in Katz’s studio appear vaguely figurative, but the works are abstract, conceptual. They were born out of the post abstract-expressionist moment to encompass several ‘-isms’ spanning the last few decades, including post-painterly abstraction, op art, hard-edge abstraction and minimalism.” 

– Grace Kook-Anderson, The Oregonian

Examples of Katz’s work can be found at Russo Lee Gallery

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The Artists Series 4: Visual Artists

Ten more portraits in black and white by K.B. Dixon of Oregon artists who are helping to define what Portland and the state look like


TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY K.B. DIXON


This is the fourth installment of portraits in The Artist Series. The first two focused on Oregon writers. Part 3 and this installment, Part 4, focus on visual artists—the gifted, award-winning painters, sculptors, and photographers who have made invaluable contributions to the cultural life of this city and state, people whose legacies are destined to be part of our cultural history.

For an introductory look at their work, I refer you to their digital digs—their virtual ateliers.


STEPHEN HAYES: PAINTER


A “deft blending of representation and sheer abstraction underpins Hayes’s eminence as a supreme kind of painters’ painter in the Pacific Northwest.” – Sue Taylor, Art in America.

Examples of Hayes’s work can be found at the Elizabeth Leach Gallery and at https://www.stephenhayes.net

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Michael A. Gibbons, 1943-2020

The longtime Oregon artist, who helped spark the creation of Toledo's arts colony, has a show at the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg

Longtime Oregon artist Michael A. Gibbons died July 2 at his home in Toledo, from complications following a stroke in 2016. He was 76. Born in Portland, he moved to the Oregon Coast when he was 25 and was instrumental in the establishment of Toledo as something of an artists’ colony, with several studios and galleries and the annual Labor Day Art Walk.

According to his online obituary, Gibbons was inspired as an art student by the landscape paintings of the 19th century French artist Corot. “I had to paint things that struck people like that,” the obituary quotes him as saying in a 2014 newspaper interview. “I saw dawn, that silvery morning light and soft colors. They weren’t garish. It was like looking at a prayer.”

Michael A. Gibbons and his wife, Judith “Judy” Mortenson, in an undated photo via Bateman Funeral Home.

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James B. Thompson, 1951-2019

Remembering the wide-ranging Oregon artist and Willamette University professor, who has died at 68. A memorial service will be held Nov. 5.

When James B. Thompson was growing up in Chicago in the 1960s he often hopped on the Illinois Central train and headed down to the Loop to spend the day hanging out at the Art Institute of Chicago, one of America’s great museums. What he saw there added to an eclectic list of influences on his own emergence as an artist. “I had the movies and I had TV, and both were important to me,” he said. “And I had books. And radio. Baseball cards. And then, the world of music. It’s a weird world. Forms of entertainment become dominant in our lives.”

As he grew and traveled and established his own distinguished career as an artist and teacher, other experiences and influences added to his broad vision of the world of art: medieval books of hours and their free-floating sense of space, the mysteries of Neolithic stone art, the techniques and possibilities of fused glassmaking, the game of golf, the act of mapping, geological shifts, the ways in which science and nature and human beings interact, the human impact on the changing landscape, the fading of traditional cultures in a modern world, the cultural and artistic implications of the fragmentation of the universe, the liberating breakup of Renaissance perspective in contemporary art.

Thompson died on October 27, 2019,at his home in Salem, Oregon, from effects of the cancer mesothelioma. He was surrounded by his loving and supportive family. He was 68.

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Antarctic journey: Waters on ice

A new frontier for Oregon painter April Waters, known for her waterscapes and large-scale portraits: a research station in Antarctica

The view to the west out the expansive windows in April Waters’ studio is a rolling landscape of woods, farmlands, habitations and foothills stepping up toward the Coast Range. Against one wall a giant bare canvas stretches 72 by 108 inches, almost as wide as and considerably longer than a king size bed. A commissioned portrait in process is visible, and several giclee prints of her landscape paintings are slotted in a folding stand. As the sun moves across the studio, which is built on a hillside to the south of downtown Salem, her easel rolls with it, catching the light the way she likes it.

April Waters with portraits of two of her Sheroes: marine biologist Sylvia Earle (left) and water-rights activist Maude Barlow. Oregon ArtsWatch photo

The vista is rich and fertile, vastly different from the edge of Antarctica, where she’ll travel in November to take part in the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program. The NSF program places artists in one of three United States Antarctic research stations to observe the world at its extremes, and help explain through their art the significance of the life and landscape of the southernmost continent and what changes there mean to the world as a whole. Both the Willamette Valley vistas that Waters paints and the Antarctic ice shores she is about to visit are places intimately involved in the shifts and balances and warning signs of climate change.

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