What: “HeART of the Matter,” works by 48 Central Oregon artists
When: Through Feb. 26
Where: Franklin Crossing atrium, 550 NW Franklin Ave., Bend
Cost: Free; some works for sale
Local art promoter Billye Turner saw a banner in downtown Bend last month that read “Stand up for what you believe.”
Part of the Downtown Bend Association’s Bend JOY Project — “an experiment and a mission to bring joy in meaningful ways to keep our community happy, strong and beautiful,” according to downtownbend.org — the banner inspired Turner to ask Central Oregon artists for works rooted in the things they believe.
Some 48 Central Oregon artists painted, drew and shaped new works — and, in a few cases, dug up older ones — that speak to their beliefs, and they’re on exhibit now in a group show displaying through Feb. 26 in the ground floor atrium of Franklin Crossing in Bend.
“I encouraged them to express their feelings about whatever’s going on,” Turner said as she gave GO! a tour last week of “HeART of the Matter,” the title of which comes from participating artist Randall Martin. To name just a few other area creative types taking part in the exhibit: Pam Bird, Paula Bullwinkel, Sandy Brooke, Susan Kusik, Christian Brown, Helen Brown, Patricia “Pat” Clark, Katie Daisy, Lori and Lisa Lubbesmeyer, Barb Gonzales, Vivian Olson, Douglas Robertson, Kelly Thiel, Gary Vincent and dozens more.
Social and political unrest tend to be motivating forces for artists, Turner said.
“Of course, some of them were very political, some are much more personal of temper,” Turner said of the works on display. “They address different aspects, like she is talking about being a woman, taking care of her girls, protecting her girls, etcetera.”
The painting, an acrylic and mixed-media painting on panel titled “Inner Fire,” is accompanied by an artist statement in which Thiel explains the vulnerability she has felt as a small woman. Around the corner in the atrium hangs Lisa Sipe’s “The Pleasure of Construction,” a mixed-media piece incorporating encaustic printing technique, photography and found object on wood — the found object being a bird’s nest, given to her by the Lubbesmeyer sisters, who had been holding onto it for a while before offering it to Sipe.
“I love nests,” Sipe said, “and so it inspired me to create that piece. … They found it in the Old Mill District, and so all of the photography that you see around it was taken around there, from using my perspective of ‘Where were these birds hanging out over here?’”
The act of making and displaying their artwork offers artists “another way to protest, by using our craft,” Sipe said. “The Pleasure of Construction,” as her piece is titled speaks to her love and concern for nature.
“I think one of the things I keep thinking about, and what Billye made me think about with this show, is what I really care about. And I really care about the environment,” she said. “After the election, environmentalism was pretty much removed from government websites. I felt like overnight I was told the U.S. doesn’t care about it anymore, and it was pretty devastating. It’s in my mind all the time now.”
The current political situation is also on the mind of Bill Cravis, who teaches sculpture at Central Oregon Community College. Cravis contributed “Fights Terror with Terror,” consisting of six large sculptures resembling liquid laundry detergent jugs, each bearing a slogan such as “loads and loads of lies.”
However, “Terror” is among the pieces that were already in existence when Turner pitched the show to local artists. It was inspired not by the new administration, but rather that of George W. Bush. In his artist statement, Cravis explains that he created the piece during his years in graduate school (2003-2006), “against the backdrop of an ongoing G.W. Bush administration and its policies. The hypocritical ‘War on Terror’ provided a never-ending source of material for my artistic output,” he writes. “The sculptural work I present in this 2017 exhibition is, unfortunately, as relevant now as it was when I created it 10 years ago.”
Gary Vincent’s acrylic painting “Ecco Homo; Death of my Brother Mark” pulls no punches. It depicts his dead sibling — shot by Jackson County deputies in 2000 — with angel wings. In his artist statement, Vincent connects the dots between his family’s tragedy and a more recent one — the shooting death of Michael Tyler Jacques in December by Bend Police officers at the nearby intersection of Franklin Avenue and Bond Street.
“The recent local shooting of Michael Jacques (12/23/2016) brings up personal grief and compassion for his family,” Vincent writes in his artist statement. He expresses the need “for compassion and better health care for the mentally ill,” along with his concerns about the state of civil policing and use of excessive force.
Sisters photographer Lynn Woodward’s contribution to the exhibit is also personal: a multimedia accordion book inspired by the uplifting letter her 80-year-old father, Doug Woodward, wrote to his six adult children — including Lynn and her half-sister Autumn Woodward, of Asheville, North Carolina, with whom she made the book — in the wake of the November 2016 election. In the letter, he implores his distraught family to keep looking up.
“All of you have been conscious of the importance of social justice and environmental action long before the age at which I became aware of them. I am in awe of what you have already accomplished,” he writes. “Don’t despair. Don’t stop. Don’t give up. … We can’t see around the dark corner in front of us, but the opportunities for action will appear. Seize them!”
The book’s title, “The Mosquito and the Sleeper,” comes from a Dalai Lama quote included on the book’s back panel: “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”
The piece is not for sale. “It was envisioned as a way for my sister and myself to help heal each other,” Woodward said.
She likes the variety and vulnerability on display in “HeART of the Matter,” along with the artist statements Turner asked contributors to pen about each of their respective pieces — and their beliefs.
“Artist statements are generally glowing things about what the artist has done. This was completely different,” Woodward said. “It really added such depth and connection.”
Remarking on Cravis’ “Fights Terror with Terror” piece fitting the theme even though it was created a decade ago, Woodward said, “That’s part of what my father was saying: ‘Look, things ebb and flow, and keep looking to your immediate world, and keep acting upon what you believe is right.’”