Sometimes art and life just come together.
For example, this year’s Around Oregon Annual Exhibition at The Arts Center will include an oil painting called “Pandemic Still Life 1, 2020,” showcasing an everyday household item: empty toilet paper rolls.
Eugene artist Sarah Ciampa “made sort of a pun out of this reference to a toilet paper panic, and she painted in this absolutely meticulous, realistic style,” says curator Hester Coucke. “You can almost pick up the toilet paper rolls.”
Ciampa’s artist statement says she enjoys using classical realist art techniques to explore modern themes.
The Around Oregon Annual 2020 Exhibition opens Thursday night at The Arts Center in Corvallis with an outdoor reception, “Masquerade on the Plaza.” (See sidebar or content box for details). The annual exhibition, which has been held by The Arts Center around 16 years, will be on view in the main gallery through Aug. 29.
Ciampa’s painting is among work by 32 Oregon artists selected by guest juror Jane Brumfield, who has co-owned the Imprint Gallery in Cannon Beach with her husband, Mike, since 2017.
The guest juror, invited from outside the community, is given digital images of the submitted work without the artists' names. The juror is asked to pick 35-40 works for the exhibition, with no more than one piece per artist. The participating artists are from Corvallis, Albany, Philomath, Eugene, Creswell, Elmira, Springfield, Cottage Grove, Portland and the coast. There were 120 submitting artists.
A guest juror is free to make their “personal choice” in the selection of artwork, Coucke said.
Brumfield’s selections include paintings and drawings, print techniques, ceramics, collages, cut paper works, fiber arts and photography.
Coucke said it was interesting that Brumfield chose art that went “from entirely abstract, non-representational to almost photographic realistic work.”
“The whole gamut is in there,” she said.
Coucke said two pieces in the exhibit “look more abstract upon first view.”
One is an oil and wax painting, titled “Zoning,” by Patricia Arrera of Eugene. The painting has several colorful squares and lines, in addition to two circles. It is meant to be viewed as aerial photography of homes, gardens and crop circles.
The other is a photograph titled “Marine Gardens,” by Corvallis artist Rich Bergeman.
At first glance, viewers may think of it as an almost abstract photo, Coucke said, “but then you see that the estranged effect comes from the use of infrared photography, which makes the plants look as coming from a different world.”
The exhibit doesn’t feature any functional ceramic wares, like pots or bowls, but its three-dimensional sculptures stand out. They include “White Magic Woman,” a ceramic, feather and found object piece created by Tamae Frame of Oregon City.
Frame’s sculpture is the bust of a woman/bird with bluish skin and feathers coming from her hair.
“I think she is a figure of the imagination,” Coucke said. “The magic may be in those feathers.”
Portland artist Karen Clark shares a history with The Arts Center. Clark previously featured works in “Rot: The Afterlife of Trees,” a 2016 multimedia exhibit, where artists traveled to the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest to create art inspired by dead trees.
It’s been a lasting inspiration for her work, Coucke said.
In Clark’s mixed-media painting “Log Rot Landscape: Tryon Creek 2,” she used encaustic and oil paint and crochet on board. Encaustic is beeswax with pigment in it that is melted on canvas, or board in this case, to build up thick layers.
“She uses crochet to make even more relief in that painting, to make more bumps and valleys, because that rotting wood is messy,” Coucke said.
Similar to Ciampa, Portland artist Kelsey Birsa displays a realistic oil painting titled “Family Recipe.” In it an older woman is depicted preparing something in the kitchen, with a recipe book sitting near her on the counter. Only half of her body is in view, and her face is hidden.
Coucke called it “down to earth” subject matter.
“It’s a homey scene. There is a bit of tradition with that,” she said.
Birsa is one of three new artists showing in the exhibit. She is joined by Christine Harrison of Tillamook and Portland artist Edie Overturf. Both Harrison and Overturf present multiple art printing techniques in their respective works, “Invasive Species in the Lagoon” and “Scapegoat.”
John Subert, an abstract expressionist artist from Corvallis, shows “Anoxic Layer,” an acrylic painting on paper.
“He works completely non-representational, black-and-white,” Coucke said.
“I think it’s interesting that the juror picked these things that are so far removed from each other,” she said.
Coucke believes viewers will love the variety of artwork that Brumfield has chosen.
Prior to their ownership of Imprint Gallery, Brumfield and her husband operated galleries in Boise, Idaho, and Hastings, England. She also had a 20-year career curating for small regional museums in the south of England.
The Around Oregon Annual is one of the Corvallis gallery’s busiest exhibitions of the year and a favorite among local artists, Coucke said.
Since the pandemic forced The Arts Center to close in March, exhibitions have only been viewable by appointment. For the Around Oregon Annual, the gallery will be open from noon to 5 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, beginning with the opening reception (see content box for details).
“I hope that a lot of people will be able to see it,” Coucke said.