From nature to wide-eyed dreams, inspiration for participating artists comes in many forms
By Nancy McCarthy
For Coast Weekend
First, comes the inspiration.
Then, the art.
Finally, the unveiling.
For each artist participating in Spring Unveiling from Friday, May 5, through Sunday, May 7, in Cannon Beach, inspiration – the whisper that quickens the heart and sharpens the intuition – arrives in different forms.
“It’s usually something that’s spectacular about that moment; that’s when inspiration comes,” said painter Jeffrey Hull, owner of the Jeffrey Hull Gallery and president of the Gallery Group, which organizes Spring Unveiling.
The 17th annual festival features new works by artists from 11 Cannon Beach galleries, as well as art demonstrations, receptions and music throughout town. Local chefs will create “edible art” influenced by work from a gallery.
Hull’s definition of a “spectacular moment” usually involves how light falls on a scenic landscape. On a morning beach walk, Hull was stunned by the way the light pierced through broken clouds, landing sharply on the ocean, while deep purple flooded the sky.
“It was incredibly dramatic,” Hull said. But dramatic landscapes are everywhere on the North Coast, he noted. “What pushes it over is the lighting.”
Sculptor Melissa Cooper didn’t even know she was being inspired while growing up on her parents’ Arabian horse ranch in Colorado. She never thought about sculpting her own work while helping out her dad with his sculpture at a foundry for 10 years.
“But one year I decided to make my dad a Christmas present, and that started my love for the medium,” said Cooper, whose wildlife sculptures are in the Bronze Coast Gallery. While she sculpts foxes, grizzlies and horses, much of her work involves birds, which stir her imagination.
“Birds are a real joy to me, really all wildlife is. It’s a chance meeting that gives me pleasure,” Cooper said.
‘The mundane and the extraordinary’
For Eli Mazet, who will participate in Spring Unveiling for the first time by demonstrating his glass-blowing skills at Dragonfire Gallery, inspiration came through another medium: pottery. His brother taught pottery at the University of Oregon and later turned to glass-blowing.
Fascinated by the art, Mazet developed his own glass-blowing skills over several years. He and his two brothers operate Mazet Studios in Springfield, Oregon.
His book, “The Contemporary Shot Glass,” traces the history of the shot glass and contains photos of more than 70 shot glasses created by 40 artists.
His ideas for his shot glasses – often decorated with lifelike eyes – and other glass creations in the shape of sea creatures originate from a variety of sources.
“I often dream when I am awake,” Mazet said. “My ideas come from the constant race in my head, an addiction that is compulsive and taken from the world around me: painters, potters, tattoo artists, Mother Nature, sci-fi and so on.”
Painter Josef Kote also pays attention to the random impressions he absorbs.
“I am inspired by visuals and sounds that linger in my mind long enough to acknowledge,” said Kote, who paints cities, portraits and marine life. “Something very simple, like the way the light of dusk falls on an object or a face can trigger that.
“Particularly in nature there is a lot to pull from so far as color and the nuances of energy and vibes in a landscape or city,” he said. “Working as a full-time artist, I can’t wait for inspiration to find me; I have to seek it out.”
He seeks to capture everyday life, whether it is in his paintings of the city or in the marine art that will be displayed at Modern Villa Gallery. This is Kote’s first Spring Unveiling.
“The mundane and the extraordinary can be both a source of beauty and inspiration; it all depends on how you see it,” Kote said. “Sometimes ideas about how to express something I have seen or felt will sit with me for awhile, and other times they will emerge almost immediately.”
Cowboy artist Tolley Marney calls that inner whisper “compulsion.”
“I have to do it,” said Marney, whose horse sculptures are available at Northwest By Northwest Gallery. “The compulsion is fed by my need to communicate and express myself through what I can make with my hands.
“Instead of words forming themselves in my mouth, I am more at ease with the shapes and colors around me forming themselves into something that transmutes through my hands into the shapes and colors of steel and wood.”
The biggest challenge to his art, he said, is fear that he won’t be able to complete the sculpture that he started or that “what I see in my mind won’t come out through my hands the way I want it to happen.”
A former blacksmith, Marney has developed a lifelong relationship with horses.
“Every time I build a piece, I’m explaining life to myself. In a way, I’m looking for belonging and connection and the meaning of life as I create,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter how many pieces I make, when I’m done with a piece, no matter how much I love it, I feel like I am lacking, like I have more questions. As though the piece I just finished created new questions in me that compel me to sculpt again to seek those new answers.”
For Brin Levinson, whose acrylic and oil paintings of urban scenes often contain incongruous birds or wild animals, the small details – the “cracks and moss” – he captures in photographs form the impetus for his dreamlike work.
“I started painting the city, but I wasn’t interested in telling the story of people,” Levinson said. “I added animals to the scenes so there could be a narrative and an interesting juxtaposition.
“The animals are curious about where they are, it’s a foreign place that needs to be figured out. They’re innocent and relatable. The urban landscape is a contrived system and a labyrinth of obstacles that animals don’t understand. They point out the absurdity and impermanence of the reality that we exist in.”
This is Levinson’s first time showing at Spring Unveiling, where he will be represented at Archimedes Gallery. He will show some medium-sized pieces that remind him of the water, wind and the coastal air.
‘The smiles of life’
Hazel Schlesinger’s original inspiration came from Seaside School District art teachers Carla Babbey and Linda Campbell. The painter was born and grew up in the Cannon Beach area.
“They pointed the way for me,” she said about her teachers. “I have painted with several master artists from around the world, but Linda and Carla were the two that inspired my direction. Schlesinger’s oil painting, “NW Squall” at Northwest By Northwest Gallery, was created following a “stormy April walk on the beach,” she said.
“I paint images or scenes of thoughtful places. Places one might want to visit or be in at the moment to ponder to stay awhile or to just be,” she added. “I would like to think I paint the enjoyment, the beauty and the smiles of life and not the negatives that can ever so frequently be found in our world.”
What: Spring Unveiling
When: Friday, May 5, through Sunday, May 7
Where: Galleries and restaurants throughout Cannon Beach
Who: Fifty artists will unveil new works in 11 galleries. Thirty chefs will create menu items to pair with a specific artwork.
Events: Artist demonstrations run from 10:30 a.m. Friday to 3 p.m. Sunday. Gallery receptions and coffees run throughout the weekend; 30-year anniversaries are being celebrated by Northwest By Northwest Gallery 5 to 8 p.m. Friday and 10:40 a.m. Saturday, and by Jeffrey Hull Gallery 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday.