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I’m a celebration junky, especially those that commemorate the passing of time. I’ve been know to pull into store parking lots with the big signs hanging outside declaring the number of years they have been in business just to say congratulations to those hardy souls who have stuck with it, seen a dream through, practiced fortitude. I think this inclination comes from a fuzzy memory I have of me as a very little girl skipping through a house filled with adults who were eating cake and drinking champagne. I found myself standing wide-eyed in front of a huge table of golden gifts, the tributes to a white-haired pair who’d seen 50 years together. So when I realized that Gallery Briseno was celebrating five years in the Toledo Arts scene, I had to go. The celebration titled “Five Years – Five Dozen Artists and Events” commemorated the gallery’s history and was a grand feast of delights for all five senses.

After treating my palate, I enjoyed a feast for the eyes with the “Natural Abstractions” exhibit by Waldport artist Henry T. Manning while simultaneously taking pleasure in Manning’s guitar virtuosity as he accompanied Toledo’s own Frank Jones, photographer and purveyor of soul-felt folk and blues. Jones sang of the “ghosts he has known” as well as many toe-tapping tunes. As I listened, I toured the gallery rooms in which Manning’s large canvas acrylics burst from the gallery walls in carefully nuanced hues. I was especially drawn to his “Mesa Sunrise” which features desert reds, roses, and creamy whites. The perspective is a view from above looking down on three tabletop mesas each with its own topographical layers rising up from the canvas. I was also drawn to “Headlands 6″ from a series inspired by the Oregon Coast geology of Heceta Head and Cape Perpetua. Another stunner was “Rogue River Canyon” which conveys the scale of the canyon geography. For a true post-apocalyptic experience, Manning offers “What if They Gave a Rush Hour and Nobody Came” a simple, haunting image evoking an empty freeway disappearing into an unknowable, blue horizon. You can see Manning’s art online at www.HenryManningArtist.com.

Next, I turned to the exhibit of jewelry of Portland’s Columbia Valley Artware by Rebecca Hillwig. Her pieces featuring crystal, semi-precious stones and metal could be called both traditional and innovative. The colors are calming and earth bound, the finest of wearable art. She is at 503-961-2372.

I continued through this visual banquet with another Toledo resident, Larry Sommer. Though Sommer declined to comment on his own work instead choosing to praise the work of his host for the day, I was able to find this statement about his work on the 2010 Toledo Art Walk website: “During the last eight years, Sommer has turned out blown pieces ranging from glass floats to intricate sculptures incorporating fused work with blown. At present, Sommer has chosen to return to the art of fusing, creating both functional pieces along with his whimsical sculptures.”  On display at Gallery Briseno were several of Sommer’s functional pieces including oversized bowls and trays of vibrant, even startling colors. The pieces feature geometrical prints including one with juicy squares of strawberry jam. The hand-manufactured glass is a celebration of color: oranges against blues, lime green and black. The one whimsical piece I spied reminded me of a conch shell or a subterranean tuber. The “shell” is of the lightest lavender with pleasing rounded edges balanced on bubbles of sea colored glass inside of which nested “sea-washed” surprises. I have to admit that I sneaked a satisfying touch of this one. Sommer is at 541-336-7649.

Finally, I took time with the work of the gallery owner Sam Briseno. If you’ve ever visited Newport just above Nye Beach at Don Davis Park you will have enjoyed the impressive “Ambassador,” Briseno’s soaring metal sculptured tribute to the logging and fishing industries of the Oregon coast. Gallery Briseno is filled with his metal sculptures of things natural and imagined. I began with “Goddess Rising” in which Briseno achieves lovely circular movement even though his medium is hard, weathered metal. The female figure is encircled with rising waves that give the impression of the birth of Venus as she rises from oblivion into creation. Another piece realistically features a life-size vine bearing ripe grapes surrounded by lugs waiting for the pickers to come and carry the harvest away. Briseno’s gallery is filled with soaring spruce trees that tickle the moon and functional pieces such as a fireplace set on the top of which Sam has forged delicate calla lilies. There is an umbrella stand “laced” with metal grid work. His herons have delicately wrought feathers of brushed metal. For an opposite emotion, check out the menacing over-sized spider. What Briseno can do with discarded parts is amazing! I especially admired the mix of spiritual and utilitarian in his Buddha surrounded by a large weather worn sprocket. But to be sure, my all time favorite has to be the piece called Run! Run which is a figure that is half human, half abstraction, half organic, half geometric. The juxtaposition is balanced and satisfying. Besides all the sculpture inside, Briseno’s work can be found in an outside garden. And, as you walk around this very walkable town, you can spot his public works here and there. Gallery Briseno which is located at 404 NE Main Street in Toledo is managed by Deanne Dunlap and is open weekends 11-5 and by appointment. She can be reached at 541-336-1315. Much of Briseno’s work is by commission and you can inquire with him at 541-336-1256.

And so, I enjoyed the anniversary celebration of Gallery Briseno. Oh yes, and there was cake too, yummy tres leches cake and champagne and this time unlike that party years ago, I could taste it all. It was another perfect afternoon in the Toledo Arts District. All five senses were fully satisfied, and I went away wondering once again how lucky can one girl get? Drive over to Toledo and see for yourself!

Deborah Trusty, an enthusiast of Thoreau’s deliberate life, writes about experiences examined from a position of stillness and reflection. She lives with her photographer husband Robert in Toledo, Oregon. She currently has a fiction and a nonfiction book in progress. She is an exuberant late bloomer. Her blog is Cottage on the Oregon Coast.

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