I am gearing up for a move from my Oregon Coast art studio to Sisters/Bend (Oregon) sometime in the next few months.
My time in Charleston, Oregon (2 years in May) has been mixed. I turned 60 here, got much more physically healthy and lost 30 pounds. I was completely inspired by my surroundings, but also ran up against some ugly challenges with the local human-beings, including sexual harassment by an artist colleague.
I share this here because I do not want to sweep this reality of being a woman artist — under the proverbial rug. That fact is that I had to leave the gallery where I was making sales and this impacted my earning ability. It is already hard enough making a living as an artist. Add something like this too many times and it becomes impossible.
I did find a great affordable studio space in Charleston and have spent the months breathing in the sublime and the rugged of all that is the Oregon Coast. I walked many miles of beach, took hundreds of photographs and scavenged the shipyard and docks for my collage materials.
Now I find myself easily churning out the art from all the experiences I have taken in.
I will be presenting my final leave-taking swan song of an art show at the South Slough Interpretive Center in March and April 2016, with an opening reception on Saturday, March 5th, 1-3 pm, 61907 Seven Devils Rd, Charleston Oregon.
The South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (South Slough NERR) is a 5,000-acre natural area located in the Coos estuary on the south coast of Oregon. The Reserve was designated in 1974 as the first unit of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS), a network of estuarine habitats protected and managed for the purposes of long-term research, education, and coastal stewardship.
I will be showing my up close and personal photographic vignettes of what I call “beauteous decay” of the disintegrating ships languishing in the Charleston Shipyard. I print these “fragments” of wood, rust and peeling paint large on paper and canvas so they take on a abstract aspect. I call them “Shipyard Abstracts”
The other half of my creations are encaustic (wax fused) collages using parts of my original photographs from the shipyard, docks and beaches — in which I incorporate actual rust, sand, pebbles, rope, net, wood and paint that I have scavenged.
The dilemma when I first started this work was how to seal the rusty parts so they would remain stable in the art and not continue to flake and decay. After considering several toxic sealers, I discovered the ancient art of fusing with beeswax! The wax effectively seals out oxygen to the rust and stops the decaying process. (And it smells good too!)
It has not been lost on me that my mission to visually express the richness and beauty in the decay has a personal element. I just turned 60 years old and, as things go, I too have lost the bloom of youth! I resonate with things that are aging but still beautiful in new ways — if only one takes the time and looks closely .
Betsy Lewis is an artist at Betsy Lewis Designs and a writer at The Walkabout Woman Blog. Her studio and living space is a 1200 square ft. remodeled elementary school classroom in Charleston Oregon. For more information, contact Betsy Lewis at (541) 404-0835 or Deborah Rudd at South Slough Estuarine Research Reserve at:(541) 888-5558