The Art of Appreciating Art

The Land of Chief Joseph inspirational original oil painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Steve Henderson
Regional artists of the Pacific Northwest capture the area in which they live. The Land of Chief Joseph by Wenaha Gallery Artist Steve Henderson.

Most of us understand and empathize with our fellow humans who are afraid of mice, spiders, snakes, small spaces or vampire movies starring Christopher Lee. We all have our fears and foibles, and they vary depending upon the person.

Many people, however, are frightened — in a different way — of something that is designed to bring joy and dimension to their lives: fine art, as in paintings and sculpture, jewelry and prints, woodwork and photography. Whether it is years of the discipline being overrun and overruled by the extreme abstract movement, resulting in viewers being condescendingly ushered from the room when they asked, “Why is this piece worth $25,000? It really looks like something an eight-year-old could do,” or not, too many individuals are missing out on an element of life that should be part of all our lives.

Kokopeli Dancer birdhouse by Papa Jon's Fly Inns of Wenaha Gallery
Sculpture comes in all shapes and forms, and Papa Jon’s Fly Inns creates birdhouses that are functional and decorative. Kokopeli Dancer, by Wenaha artists Jon and Marilu Bryan of Wenaha Gallery.

So, let’s change this, and aggressively make art  part of our lives.

Appreciating fine art, like most skills, is easy yet difficult, but it doesn’t start at all until we begin. While it sounds simplistic, initiating the process involves nothing more than looking at art — in books, online, or in person — and doing just that: looking at it. The more we expose ourselves to different styles, different media, different subject matter, the more experience we gain in art, and of art, and soon find ourselves developing a sense of confidence in our judgment.

“I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like,” is a common phrase of the common man, and like most such phrases, it imbues a factor of commonsense as well. Art, which is both subjective and objective, appeals to different people for different reasons, and in the same way that some people love goat cheese and others don’t, or some people prefer a red Malbec over a white Pinot Grigio, or a black Nilgiri tea over a South African honeybush tisane, some viewers gravitate toward bold brushstrokes and vibrant color, while others prefer subdued colors and a smooth, blended surface.

Great Blue Heron Wildlife painting by Hiroko Cannon of Wenaha Gallery
Original watercolors and prints are available by wildlife and Wenaha artist Hiroko Cannon. Shown is Great Blue Heron.

Most fortunate of all are those whose experience is so wide and diverse that they see merits in various styles — they like herbal infusions as well as white tea, bitter dark chocolate and the sweeter milk kind, representational art and abstract.  And, because they’ve looked at a lot of art, and asked questions about what they’ve seen, and pondered the various answers they were given, they are free as well to say, “This is good, and this is not,” because art — while it is very, very subjective — possesses objective elements as well, although, within certain areas of the art world, this is a well kept secret.

Because art, in various forms, is literally everywhere, the ability to see it, and learn from it, is open to anyone with access to books, images on a computer, or — and this very much an option for people in Southeast Washington — brick and mortar galleries that house and showcase art. Known for being an art community, Walla Walla — and the area around it — is fortunate to possess private and community establishments that show art, sell art, and encourage people to visit and physically view art.

Pierced wood bowl by wenaha gallelry artists pat and peggy bookey
Pat and Peggy Bookey of Alaska join forces to create hand pierced wooden vessels that are both functional and decorative.

Any fears that aspiring aficionados have about walking into a gallery and feeling like an idiot should be immediately put to rest, because anyplace that prompts a reaction of insecurity in its patrons is not a place where they will learn about art. And it’s not a place that viewers will find in this area, which enjoys a number of ways to view original art.

In Walla Walla, WA, Kingfisher Gallery and Custom Framing at 11 South Spokane Street features original art from Walla Walla based artists including Carol Cole, Bob Baker, Ed Stone and Mark VanDonge, and new works are added on a changing basis through the year.

Darrah’s Framing and Decorator (39 East Main) focuses on artists of the Walla Walla Valley, spotlighting the work of one artist for special two-month-long shows.

Todd Telander Gallery at 34 South Colville features landscapes, still life, and wildlife work of the artist.

A  short drive away, Wenaha Gallery (219 East Main) in Dayton showcases Pacific Northwest artists in its Art Events, every two weeks bringing in the two-  or  three-dimensional work of regional painters and sculptors. The gallery also houses the original work of some 30 artists from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska.

On the John Day inspirational original oil painting by Wenaha Gallery Artist Judy Robertus
Dayton artist Judy Robertus paints the Pacific Northwest in which she lives, and which she loves. On the John Day by Wenaha Gallery artist Judy Robertus.

Dayton artists with studios include Monica Stobie (610 North Touchet Road)  and Steve Henderson (by appointment: 509.382.9775); and the Delaney building, next to the public library (111 South Third Street) hosts a monthly rotating display of artwork by the Blue Mountain Artists Guild.

Further afield, but still within an afternoon’s drive, are the Valley Art Center in Clarkston, WA (842 6th Street); the Pendleton Center for the Arts (214 North Main Street,  Pendleton, OR); and the Allied Arts Gallery (89 Lee Boulevard, Richland, WA). All three of these community art organizations operate a rotating monthly calendar of juried competitions, regional exhibitions, and individual and group artist shows. A short hop from Clarkston (16 miles northeast in Uniontown, WA), the Dahmen Barn carries the work of 120 artists, some of whom maintain studios in the building and are more than happy to talk with visitors.

This is, indeed, an area rich in the visual arts, and the opportunity to make art a part of our daily lives — viewing it, appreciating it, and owning it — is big and bold and beautiful. Let’s make 2015 the year to embrace art.

Websites:

Todd Telander — http://www.toddtelander.com/

Kingfisher Galleries and Custom Framing — Kingfisher Walla Walla (Facebook)

Darrah’s Framing and Decorating — http://www.darrahsdecorating.com/

Wenaha Gallery — http://wenaha.com/

Monica Stobie — http://www.monicastobie.com/

Jill Ingram — http://www.jillingram.com/

Steve Henderson — http://stevehendersonfineart.com/

Allied Arts Gallery — http://www.alliedartsrichland.org/

Pendleton Center for the Arts — http://www.pendletonarts.org/

The Dahmen Barn — http://www.artisanbarn.org/

Wenaha GalleryWenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton; phone 509.382.2124; e-mail art@wenaha.com; website http://wenaha.com/ 

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.

 

 

Not Just Your Standard Birdhouse: the Art of Papa Jon’s Fly Inns

Ladybug Cottage bird house by Papa Jon's Fly Inns
An amply sized, glorious ladybug sings of spring, all year round. Ladybug Cottage by Papa Jon’s Fly Inns.

For sculptors Jon and Marilu Bryan, art is for the birds, literally.

The Dayton couple, who operate under the name of Papa Jon’s Fly Inns, create hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind birdhouses that look like something one would keep on a special shelf in the living room, but are fully functional outdoor homes for wildlife, designed to handle wind, weather, and wet.

“They’re made to be outside and for birds to really use,” Jon Bryan says, “but I have people who  plug the holes in them so birds can’t get in. Some people put them all over their houses as decor — in the kitchen, in the living room. We have Realtors who put them in houses that they’re showing.

“Other people put them outside and let me know about the different birds that have nested in them.”

Designed for small birds, the house shells are built out of premium, long lasting cedar topped by a hand-hammered, galvanized metal roof, which is insulated to protect birds from the heat. The entrance holes are sized to invite in small nesting birds, like chickadees or finches, but keep out predators and “undesirables,”  like starlings.

“We don’t want anything to get in to hurt the eggs or the chicks,” Jon says. “I did a lot of research about making a birdhouse that is usable by birds. I wanted to make sure that the materials were friendly to the birds, as well as the design.”

That being said, his part is the easy one, Jon insists, crediting his wife and business partner, Marilu, with creating — by hand — the decorations that festoon the houses, adornments that are carefully chosen and arranged to portray a particular subject matter or motif: There are coastal-themed birdhouses, complete with shells from the sea, driftwood from the beach, and Marilu’s quirky interpretation of a pelican. A farm-themed house features real straw, artfully strewn around a cow and a chicken.  There are trains, frogs, cactus, and a moose. One piece, a particularly tall edifice entitled Flying High in the Vineyard, features a tiny table with miniature wineglasses and a dainty loaf of French bread.

Standing in front of an array of these avian domiciles, the viewer understands the quandary of whether to hang the work up outside, for the birds to enjoy, or keep it inside, where human decor preferences prevail. One hopes that a happy compromise be established, and as it is recommended that the houses be brought in during the winter months, peace between species should prevail.

Flying high with wineglasses birdhouse by wenaha gallery artists papa jon's fly inns
Look on your left, and see if you can spot the wineglasses, the little bottle of wine, and that bird-sized loaf of bread. Flying High in the Vineyard by Papa Jon’s Fly Inns.

Started nine years ago as a means of supplementing their retirement, Jon and Marilu’s part-time project quickly grew into one that can take all the time they’re willing to give to it. Initially, they exhibited in art fairs and garden shows throughout the Northwest, but since moving to Dayton from Olympia five years ago, they have scaled back, and keep busy enough fulfilling orders from people who find Papa Jon’s Fly Inns at their Etsy shop, or who discover them at Wenaha Gallery in Dayton.

Over the years, Jon and Marilu’s’ birdhouse sculptures have won numerous awards, including Best of Show at Allied Arts Art in the Park in Richland and the Apple Blossom Festival in Wenatchee,  and Judge’s Choice at Issaqua Salmon Days and the Chelan Fine Arts Show.

Oddly, or maybe not, the couple does not keep their birdhouses on their own country property, adjoining the Touchet River a few miles out of  town.  One would think that the birds would be delighted with such a setting. Jon agrees, but explains, “I’ve kept a few birdhouses up at our place in the past, but I don’t tend to do that now because I end up selling them.”

So birds at his place, unfortunately, must scrabble together a home on their own, without a table, wineglasses, and a loaf of bread.

“Our art is created with a sense of humor and light heartedness,” Marilu says. “There’s a sense of adventure: life and art should be fun and colorful.”

Gallery artists at Wenaha Gallery in Dayton, Jon and Marilu Bryan of Papa Jon’s Fly Inns are the featured Pacific Northwest artists for Art Event, a three-week showcasing of their works, beginning Monday, March 31, at the gallery. Bryans’ Art Event runs through Monday, April 21, 2014.

Wenaha Gallery,  located in historic downtown Dayton, Washington,  is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton; phone 509.382.2124; e-mail art@wenaha.com.