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Holding On: Corvallis Art Guild show keeps in touch with tradition

Holding On: Corvallis Art Guild show keeps in touch with tradition

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The Corvallis Art Guild had to cancel its 59th annual Clothesline Sale of Art at the Benton County Courthouse, but it is holding onto its mission of connecting guild artists with the community through an initiative called the ClothesPin Project.

Beginning Aug. 1, the guild will present the first fruits of that project, a new art show titled “Holding On.” About 60 works created by more than 15 member artists will be displayed in the window at the Footwise shoe store in downtown Corvallis. There will also be a virtual gallery on the CAG’s website, Facebook page and Instagram account.

Guild artists were invited to use any media of any size, so long as the art was created with clothespins, about them, or played on the theme of “holding on.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic is teaching us all to hold on, in so many different ways,” said Debi Friedlander, CAG president. “Clothespins are all about holding onto clotheslines, so this is our way of saying, ‘Hold on, the Clothesline Sale will be back.’”

Clothespins as a theme also connected with the history of the Clothesline Sale, said organizer John Friedlander, CAG treasurer and Debi’s husband.

The annual sales originally involved “stringing a clothesline between the trees at the courthouse lawn and clipping art to it,” he said.

Eventually, organizers abandoned the clothesline but continued to hold the art sale on the courthouse lawn. That was considered unworkable this year because of the virus.

The Corvallis Art Guild, which was founded in 1946, boasts more than 100 artists from Linn and Benton counties.

“Holding On” features watercolor, acrylic and oil paintings on clothespins, paper and canvas, as well as ink, photography, sculpture, digital media and multimedia works.

“A lot of the artists are doing different things than they normally do, not just in relation to this show,” Debi Friedlander said.

“Members are producing fine art on, about or with actual clothespins, and they’re addressing ideas related to some of the larger issues we’re facing,” John Friedlander added.

Some artists painted clothespins with images of flowers, birds, dragons and bugs.

Donna Beverly was the first member to submit work for the project. It is “Emma’s Whitewashed Sins,” an older acrylic painting on museum-wrapped canvas.

The colorful painting shows white sheets, drying in the sun and hanging on a clothesline held by clothespins.

“It’s just screaming clotheslines and clothespins,” John Friedlander said. “It’s kind of literal and the poster child art for this project.”

Debi Friedlander, who usually works two-dimensionally in colored pencil and watercolor, sometimes fusing them with photography, expresses the notion of “holding on” for her contribution to the project.

“I’m making a weird sculpture piece that’s totally different than anything I’ve ever done,” she said.

To create her sculpture, “For Dear Life,” Debi Friedlander deconstructed clothespins, removing and reshaping the springs to look like people’s arms. She then painted the wood various skin colors and glued them together with red beads to represent their hearts.

The clothespin people were attached to a spiral of white clothesline, which was made with wire and glue to keep it fairly rigid.

“They are climbing, slipping, struggling, catching and helping each other up the spiral of life,” she said.

Debi Friedlander said she thinks of time as being spiral in form rather than linear or circular, and wanted the piece to speak of our ongoing struggle to create an equitable society.

“I think it is critically important for us to view the Black Lives Matter movement in the historical context of living in a country where the context of ‘all’ has excluded so many of us,” she said. “Yes, we all matter, and it is long past time for those of us with pale faces to recognize that ‘all’ needs to include people of every color. We can only create a loving, healthy society by working together, honoring each other and helping each other in our struggles.”

John Friedlander, who is also the CAG newsletter editor, said he always has a big issue on his mind when creating artwork.

“These days it’s about politics, race, disease and economic health,” he said.

The multimedia artist’s piece, “We Carry the Rope Which Binds Us,” includes 6-inch clothespins painted in a variety of colors, with fingerprints impressed on the pins in contrasting colors, as if each pin is being held onto by another color. Together, the pins hold onto and are surrounded by a length of clothesline.

John Friedlander said he was inspired to make his project from a random comment made by a fellow guild member about how the artworks would “all hang together” in the Footwise window. The words reminded him of a famous quote, “we must all hang together, or surely we shall all hang separately,” often attributed to Benjamin Franklin upon the signing of the Declaration of Independence, he said.

Friedlander explained his work’s title. He said, “I believe current events put the idea that we are stronger together than separately in a very bright light, that matters of freedom and bondage are central to many current conversations, and that our diversity of viewpoints is both a blessing and a burden as we struggle to find ways to collaborate and cooperate. I also believe our destiny — positive or negative — will be a result of our own actions.”

He also has a series of photographs in the show.

Jeff Gunn, a ceramicist of 23 years who has incorporated painting and mixed media over the past few, said using clothespins and ceramic tiles is very different from his normal creative adventures.

Gunn’s piece, “Yoga Poses, Hanging On,” features seven yoga poses with colorful figures made from clothespins, each figure supported by an original clay tile which is 16 by 16 inches. The background is acrylic paint on wood panel.

“My message is for all of us to hang onto hope during these difficult times, with yoga being just one example of nurturing both mind and body,” Gunn said.

Peggy Sharrow, a past guild president, made what John Friedlander described as a “Picasso cubist construction of a clothespin.” For her colorful illustration, “Hanging on Fragments,” she used Micron ink (black outlines of fragments) and colored pencil on paper.

John Friedlander was impressed with the art produced for the project by fellow guild members, many of whom had never used clothespins in their work previously.

“Real artists take challenges like that without knowing how it’s going to turn out, and sometimes amazing things happen,” he said.

There are several goals intended with the ClothesPin Project. For John Friedlander, it was important the guild fill the void left by canceling the popular sale.

Next year’s event will be the 60th Clothesline Sale of Art, and the Corvallis Art Guild will turn 75 years old.

“If we can’t do one this year, it’s going to feel a lot like starting over again on what should be a victory lap for lasting that long,” he said.

The CAG is also displaying art through Aug. 8 at Imagine Coffee in Corvallis.

Most of the ClothesPin Project works will be available for sale. But without the Clothesline Sale of Art and other summer festivals to rely on because of the pandemic, many local artists are losing lots of income.

For that reason, the CAG has changed its operations. There is no entry fee, and the guild won’t be taking commission for any sales.

“We’re trying to work for our members,” John Friedlander said.

Debi Friedlander, like many guild artists, said she would miss interacting with the public at the Clothesline Sale. But with the ClothesPin Project, viewers can do so on the CAG’s Facebook and Instagram pages.

“We’re hoping people will give us feedback and tell us what they think of these crazy things we’re doing,” she said.

“Art is all about starting conversations and building relationships. We hope this will still make that possible,” John Friedlander added.

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