I have the good, no, great fortune to be one of those ridiculously lucky people who found her personal nirvana by experiencing crushing loss. After the economic downturn (how’s that for a PC term?) took our home and then our business on the Oregon coast, my husband and I retreated to the small town of Toledo, Oregon to lick our wounds and regroup. Thanks to a For Rent ad placed for a “cottage with a charming courtyard” to which I was instantly drawn, we landed in the center of the Toledo Arts District. At the time, we were grateful to have found a lovely home, but we soon learned that it was much more than just a home. We are surrounded by beauty both natural and man-made.

Nestled as we are between artist Michael Gibbon’s studio and the Yaquina River Museum of Art, ours is a kaleidoscope experience of loveliness. The studio of Ivan Kelly is just a few doors down. The Sam Briseno Gallery in the historic Leader Building as well as Skybound Gallery on Toledo’s traditional Main Street are just down the hill a bit. Eventually, I’d like to share all the attractions of this place with everyone. I will start with this entry about YRMA, which is short for the Yaquina River Museum of Art.

The current exhibit, Still Life and the Figure, is a selection of art from the museum’s permanent collection, the Michael and Judith Gibbons Trust and on loan from museum supporters and are works from artists both local and from around the world. The bronzes and paintings on display cover a wide range of topics from the expected to the whimsical. Among the featured artists are Douglas Haga, John Van Dreal, Michele Taylor, Mark de Graffenreid, Michael Gibbons, Nicholas Wilson, Martin Eichinger, Bernardo Lopez Izquierdo (Nano), Ivan Kelly, William (Bill) Kucha, John Solie, Ed Young, and Loran Speck.

Loran Speck’s “Three Pears” is an example of Contemporary Realism. In laymen’s terms that mean it looks like you can reach into the canvass and remove the pears glistening with water drops and take a bite of honey sweet fruit. His work has been compared to the great Dutch Masters.

Douglas Haga’s piece is a still life featuring a grotesque yet humorous mask pinned to a wall with its rapacious eyes focused on an insect tantalizingly suspended from a string only inches away, both done in primary colors against a pastel background. I was fortunate to chat with the artist, and he explained that it is one of several in a series called “Desire” all expressing the essence of the word.

“Nest” by Nicholas Wilson is presented in a medium with which I was not familiar called gouache (gwaash). The curator’s notes displayed nearby explain it “as a water media made with opaque pigments and gum Arabic which in this case was placed over a smooth polymer primed panel, the details and highlights being scratched away with the needle.” The effect is startling. Indeed, the individual twigs of the nest and the one stray feather seem delicately suspended, captured for our pleasure.

Three large canvases of female figures are also part of the show. The presentations by three different artists range from nude to fully clothed as well as from warm, loving tributes to cooler stylized representations. One of these, a work by Ed Young, has as a secondary visual interest a carpet into which a primitive goat figure seems to be woven, perhaps a hearkening back to the artist’s past in Mozambique.

Among the bronzes is “Mariner’s Moment” a small version of the life sized work that stands in Homer, Alaska. The mariner is depicted with wind blown hair and a rugged visage dressed in waist high waders handling a coiled cable. It is a reminder of the industry only five miles away in Newport.

I encourage you to drive over and visit the Yaquina River Museum of Art. It is easy to find in Toledo at 151 NE Alder Street just off Business 20. Admission is free, though donations are gratefully accepted. It is open Thursday through Sunday noon to 4:00pm and by appointment (541) 336-1907. It is founded and curated by Michael Gibbons, an internationally recognized Oregon artist. The current show will run through March.

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. Deborah’s personal blog can be found at: http://www.orcoastcottage.net/.

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  1. John Lavrakas says…

    Yes! My wife and I have enjoyed many visits to Toledo and its arts district. What fun it has been to park the car and take off on foot for a visit to each gallery, taking in their rich and varied collections, while talking with the artists themselves. Kudos goes to those who have made this little haven for art happen (you know who you are). Anyone visiting the Oregon Coast should plan to include in that trip time to visit the Toledo Arts District.

    Written on March 27th, 2011 / Flag this Comment
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