Eugene Weekly : Visual Art : 10.15.2009


Passport to Art
Artists open studios for DIVA
by Natalie Miller

Thousands of people visit the Willamette Valley each year to tour the local wineries, learning about the elaborate production process, meeting wine connoisseurs and purchasing bottles from the source. Now you can do the same, but with a different kind of art ­ visual art. 

Wheel of Life 11, by Lesley Strothers
Divided, by Ryan Beard

After last year’s fundraiser turned into a success, the Downtown Initiative for the Visual Arts (DIVA) gives Eugeneans another chance to take a closer look at the growing art scene with the Open Studios Art Tour. The self-guided tour, which starts on Saturday, Oct. 17, consists of 32 local artists, who will open their work studios to the public. The participants range from metal and illuminated light sculptors to painters and stoneware artists. DIVA’s executive director, Mary Unruh, says that the purpose of the tour is to take art out into the community, making it widely available for all. And with studios scattered around the valley, from downtown Eugene to Bethel, Springfield to Cottage Grove, this year’s tour is highly accessible. 

Tour-takers can see how the art is created, talk with the artists and gain a deeper understanding of the work. Participating artists were selected by a juried process, Unruh says. Just as the artists’ styles greatly differ, so do their studio spaces. Unruh says that the tour includes a broad range, from the sophisticated to the spare room.

Sitting high above the city in Eugene’s south hills, and filled with shelves of unfired clay, vibrantly colored stained glass and the smell of fresh paint is Steve Daniels’ workspace. Daniels has been making high-fired functional stoneware from his home studio since 1994, but this will be his first year to participate in DIVA’s Studio Tour. 

Outside his studio hangs a sign, “Daniels Family Pottery,” and that’s exactly what it is. Steve’s work may be what is on display for the tour, but his inspiration comes directly from his wife, Leonie, and their three children, without whose motivation, he says, he wouldn’t work with pottery. Having learned the trade mostly from experimenting with different techniques, Daniels takes pleasure in the mystery of using a wood-firing kiln, embracing what others might see as “defects” and using them as a starting point to further develop an idea. Daniels says he’s interested in making pottery that will serve his family and friends ­ pottery that they can use, that will complement the characteristics of the food it holds. 

For most artists, their workspace is designed to maximize productivity and inspire, but in the case of JulieAnn Mills-Testi, her studio space has been precisely constructed to accommodate her creative needs and to allow her to maneuver with ease. Her studio is painted blue for its peaceful effects, but she finds her inspiration elsewhere — her family, her horseback riding and her dog. Born with a disability that left her without the use of her arms and hands, Mills-Testi has trained herself to paint holding a brush in her teeth. Since earning a degree in art from Loyola Marymount University, Mills-Testi has expanded her art career to working (with a little assistance) with a variety of mediums, including animation, charcoals, etchings, lithographs, oils and pastels. 

Across town, at Helios Creative Studio, Brooke Borcherding will also be showcasing her artwork for the DIVA tour. Borcherding, a UO student, works primarily with oil paints, focusing “painterly,” style. That, she says, “ is when a piece can be representational or abstract, but that allows the viewer to see that it was created out of paint.” With formal training from the Rhode Island School of Design, Cal Arts and the UO, Borcherding says she loves the possibilities of a blank canvas. “There is a satisfaction in the act of painting,” Borcherding says. “It keeps me very prolific and wanting to paint more.” 

For the past four years, Borcherding’s art has been bringing life to the walls of Café Roma on 13th Avenue, but her work can also be seen, along with that of the 31 other studio tour artists at DIVA. The gallery has been showcasing a piece of each of the 32 artists’ work in order to give the public a preview of what will be on display during the tour. 

To participate in the studio tour, you’ll first need a passport ­ your ticket to the show. The $15 passport includes a map with directions to the studios and information about the artists and can be purchased at DIVA. Once you have your passport, you’ll have two full weekends, Oct. 17-18 and 24-25, to visit the studios of your choice. 


On the blog on Friday: Natalie Miller visits more artist studios and talks about different settings and materials.





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