TONASKET – The Community Cultural Center reverberated with laughter, music and beauty when artists converged for the opening reception of a show called “Twenty-five Outta North 40” Friday, July 6.
The show was curated by Jenny Berry, who brought many of the artists out for first-ever showings, along with artists already well-known in the area.
Shayla Wiggins said when she moved to Tonasket a year and a half ago, she met fellow artist Bonnie Pleasants just eight days in to her journey of life in the Okanogan. “When I told her I was an artist, she introduced me and had my art displayed at the library within a month,” said Wiggins, who became the art coordinator for AOK (Artists of the Okanogan) and got involved with the Okanogan County Artists Association (OCA).
“Around here, I'm the youngest,” said Wiggins, age 25. “Most of the artists are around my grandmother's age, and they are just getting started. I'm fortunate to have gotten started at an early age.”
Wiggins began painting at the age of 12, when a friend of her parents passed away, leaving no children behind. Her family drew the deceased man's mother into their own family.
“She asked me one day if I wanted to learn to paint, and I said okay. She learned from Helen Caswell,” said Wiggins. “She hasn't taught me in ten years, but I still keep her informed about my shows and latest artwork. Without her, I don't think I would have ever started.”
Wiggins, who said almost every painting she's ever done includes some sort of trees or water, chose to display a piece she created while looking out her window on a cold day last winter. “It's the first official snow picture I ever did,” Wiggins said of the oil painting depicting a partially frozen lake in front of an icicle-encrusted home and barn.
“It's nice to see different types of art from artists not associated with the other organizations,” said Wiggins, who enjoyed the opportunity to display her work in an earlier show with Peggy Proctor and Pleasants, also among the “25 Outta North 40.” “Thanks to Jenny, who hung the show and did a fantastic job.”
The youngest artist displayed is 11 years old and comes from a long line of artists. Marina Hyde's piece called 'Animae Awesome' hangs in the front window, near her father Quill Hyde's study for an upcoming sculpture called ‘Horse Dreams.’
“Marina writes stories as she plays with friends, then draws the characters she comes up with,” said Quill Hyde. “She’s very much a driven artist. She fills sketchbook after sketchbook, frequently going back to old ones from years ago and redrawing characters in her latest style.”
Quill said his daughter comes by her talents from both sides of the family, with at least four generations of engineers, artists, musicians, sculptors and “many hard-working folks driven to create.”
Whether artistic talent is a result of nature or nurture, another example of art as a family affair is the inclusion of the curator's father in the show. Cliff Berry chose a piece called 'Gold' Flumee,' made from wood harvested from irrigation water flumes, with a story of the flumes displayed alongside.
“The flumes of irrigation water transformed the production of fruit in an otherwise semi-arid land to a paradise of agricultural delight,” wrote Berry. “The hard work provided by the builders paid off in fruit known throughout these United States. As a tribute to these pioneers and their accomplishments, I brought these artifacts to life.” Berry uses the galvanized steel from the flumes for name plates on his pieces, twisting nails salvaged from the flumes into stick figures with individual personalities to adorn the pieces, their heads and faces created from polished stones, agates and gems.
“He uses every part of the flumes. Nothing goes to waste,” said Berry's wife Georgia Berry, who in turn uses his polished stones, agates and gems in intricate beaded jewelry pieces.
Berry said in researching the flumes, he spoke to area “old timers.”
“A lot of the farmers worked on the flumes, covering the fir with tar to make it water proof,” said Berry, adding that high school kids were hired during the summer months over the years to re-tar the flumes, with sections gated off for them to work on.
Fiber artist Sheena Crothers said she wanted to learn to crochet for a number of years but didn't have the patience. “Then I became a mother and had to learn patience,” said Crothers, who learned the art from her own mother. Her eye for colors allowed her to create an exotic-looking piece called “Rainbow Sweater” from simple yarns purchased at a local department store.
“It's a good show with a lot of variety and a bunch of new faces, including lots of younger people,” said Harvey Swanson, whose birch wood lamp softly lit a corner of the room. Swanson created the lamp's base from beaver-chewed birch wood found along Antwine Creek. Swanson said the branch eventually split off from the tree, creating the perfect shape for a wall lamp. The lampshade is made from a piece of the bark Swanson found on the ground and preserved with linseed oil.
“One of the things we wanted to illustrate with this show is, there's all kinds of art and all kinds of different ways of displaying it. Art doesn't have to be hung the same and it doesn't have to be square,” said Jenny Berry, adding that artists are often asked, “Do you draw or paint?” but the craft of encaustic painting, for example, includes adding colored pigments to heated wax and applying the substance to a surface such as canvas or wood and using tools to manipulate or sculpt the wax. “So, it's kind of like a painting,” said Berry. The show included encaustic pieces by artists James Moore and Linda Augier, with both pieces beckoning the viewer to step closer (and resist touching) to determine if they are a tile piece or a painting with multiple layers of oils.
“Being in town just seven months, and getting 25 local artists to display, I think I did alright,” said Berry, who moved to Tonasket from Portland, Oregon, last winter. “Eighty percent of these artists hadn't shown before.” Asked how she managed to find artists whose work wasn't already in local galleries, Berry responded, “All I talk about is art. So.....I find artists.”
“It was a lively show. A lot of younger people are coming in, and they are going to usurp the established artists,” said Ephraim Brown of E.C. Anomalies, whose metal sculpture “Last Breath” was included in the show. “Marina Hyde is off the hook.”
Other artists in the show include Anna Torres-Wolleat, Angelina Faye, Debbie Johnson, Debbie Turner, Jerry Crothers, Kanga Campbell, Laurie Dorrel, Lee Wolleat, Mary Engel, Miranda Cromwell, Rosie Robinett, Sierra Holloway, Terry Allen and Tres Vance.
Music for the reception was provided by Sara McVay. The show runs through September 30.