I once won a Blue Ribbon at the Oregon Polk County Fair.
At first thought, not a particularly noteworthy accomplishment, but there is a back-story that I believe is worth telling.
I grew up in a small town in western Oregon. Built on the industry of ranchers, farmers, loggers, and those who provide services to them, Oregon was primarily a rural economy. Each summer, county fairs from Multnomah in the north to Klamath in the south blanket the state.
The town of Independence where I spent my adolescence was in Polk County, which had a classic county fair: dusty, noisy, smelly, and filled with reunions, laughter, and opportunities to show off your skills through a variety of competitions. Women took advantage of the opportunity to present their canning, sewing, and baking prowess. 4-H projects of lambs, hogs, and cattle were a major draw for the kids, along with a decrepit-looking arcade of rides and games where we learned what it meant to waste money.
There were also art competitions: watercolor, photography, and landscapes, primarily, with birdhouses, quilting, needlepoint, and wood-carving filling the crafts portion of the competitions.
During this particular summer, I noticed that they were holding a graphic design competition. Since I was fortunate enough to have access to art classes and spent much of my time drawing, I decided to give it a go. The theme of the competition was ‘Oregon Tourism’, which seemed easy enough.
Since Oregon is also known for outdoor activities, I chose ‘Ski Oregon’ as the slogan for my poster. My design concept was to have the silhouette of Mount Hood in the background. My media: tissue paper, glue, and poster board. Brilliant, right?
I discovered very quickly, however, that applying Elmer’s Glue to tissue paper can be problematic. I had selected a particularly vibrant turquoise tissue to represent the sky in my poster. Painstakingly tearing it into the shape of the sky over Mount Hood, I managed to create the silhouette of our beloved volcano.
After applying the glue to the tissue and then wrestling the gooey substance onto the white poster-board, I was horrified to see it scrunch into a wrinkled mass of turquoise that looked surprisingly like a topographic map that had lost its sense of direction
Hoping to repair the mess, I peeled back the soggy, disintegrating, glue-slathered, and seriously mangled tissue to find a fascinating repeat pattern of turquoise dye floating on a pure white background. The image left behind was the perfect negative outline of Mount Hood.
Knowing an opportunity when I saw one, I carried on with this wonderful surprise effect as the backdrop for my poster. The next step was to add text by tearing another sheet of tissue into the shapes of letters to create the slogan. I happily found that smaller pieces were much easier to handle, and entered this marvel in the fair. Because of this accidental brilliance, coupled with adolescent courage, I received a Blue Ribbon for my efforts.
More important than receiving a blue ribbon, however, was discovering the joy and reward of ‘accident’ in the act of creation. Every artist can recount similar moments of surprise and horror that become the strongest elements of an artwork. It’s alchemy at its purest, and is a huge part of what motivates us to create. And, I believe, it is the driving force behind creativity: curiosity motivated by accident and egged on by chutzpah.
It’s my contention that ‘The Accident’ is the source of all great works of art, scientific discoveries, heavenly bodies colliding, and genetic mutations — powerful stuff.
Forty years (or so) later, I acknowledge that an accident can also be the beginning of a career.
Let’s actively encourage accidents by providing the space for our children to experiment with all manner of media, from mud to metal. The next great accident is waiting for a perfectly wrong combination of materials to collide.
Lora R Fisher
Creative Director, Galri Montaj Contemporary Art
The Arts Empower Us…
The arts provide countless opportunities to bridge diverse cultures and to engage with and enrich our communities. Numerous studies have demonstrated that the arts also enhance learning and increase engagement in the classroom, while providing opportunities to benefit from creative collaboration.
The passion that artists exhibit to unite and uplift through the arts, to protect the environment, and to stimulate and support community engagement, are my inspirations. My goal as curator of Galri Montaj is to support the creative process, to provide opportunities for emerging artists, and to be a part of the life-changing experience of the arts.
Lora R Fisher
Galri Montaj Contemporary Art
“Images.Dawn to duskMany stars, one sunThe Seen and the UnseenSubtle to off-the-charts WOWAt times I don’t see, see enough, see at allDeep, wide troughs between waves of creativitySometimes I see so much I put my camera downGaze. Listen. Touch. Feel. Enjoy.I pick up my camera, take it homeRelease the captured imagesBurning. Dodging.Playing. Sharing.Images.”…
1. Tell us a little about yourself and the role that art has taken in your life.
I’m a native Oregonian, have lived here all my life, from large urban centers (Portland), to small urban areas (Corvallis – now), the coast and Central Oregon. I spent much of my early years visiting the Oregon Coast, vacationing with my family. I started taking photos in my backyard, building a bird blind out of cardboard boxes and taking photos with a Kodak Hawkeye Instamatic.
Eventually, I began using a variety of 35mm cameras, moving into digital in 2005. Now, I still have a couple of “big-boy” cameras, Nikons, but also a Lumix point-and-shoot, a Canon G15 converted to infrared, and my iPhone.
Art is what keeps me going. I love sharing what I do with others and teaching others occasionally. Just going out and making images, getting lost in the moment for hours at a time, like I used to do in the darkroom.
2. Describe the first moment you realized that creating art was something you wanted/needed to do.
I tell people I was a photographer in the womb, emerging with a desire to create as a way of showing my independence (apparently, I was independent from day one). The artist came later, much later I think. It wasn’t until taking a photo workshop (see answer to question 3) that I began thinking of myself as an artist, that was only five years ago. Rikki Cooke talked about “Art in your life.” That is when I began to feel that what I do, my processes, are truly artful.
3. What is iPhoneography and how did you discover this medium?
I first learned about iPhoneography while taking a photography workshop “Rekindling the Creative Spirit” at the Hui Ho’olana (the Hui), on Molokai in 2009 (www.huiho.org). I must admit that I was not interested and skipped the sessions. When I returned to do another workshop in 2011, I was becoming more interested, but to me it just wasn’t “real” photography. Then I really paid attention to what others were creating and was amazed. That summer, I bought my iPhone, perhaps one the best purchases I’ve made. Hey, it’s a phone, a camera, flashlight, compass, alarm clock and so much more. My ringtone is “Kodachrome” by Simon and Garfunkel. iPhoneography is creating images with an iPhone alone, or by adding apps (software programs), and/or downloading to a computer and adding more creative touches to your photos.
4. What do you look for when choosing subject matter?
I’m looking for something that not only captures my eye, but also speaks to me to the point where I can take and make an image in the creative process. There is an app called Slowshutter, which recreates a slow shutter speed of a camera. Sometimes I see an image that one would not normally think of as a subject for a slow shutter (flowers, for example), and see the potential in front of me. I can take a shot, play with the image, and create a stunning piece of artwork immediately. Too cool.
5. What artist or artists inspired/inspire you?
In the beginning of my photo image making, my father and Oregon landscape photographer Ray Atkeson were my inspirations. With regards to iPhoneography, there are several and many all at the same time: Dewitt Jones, Theresa Airey, Rikki Cooke, and Lynette Sheppard got me started and keep me going. They are all amazingly talented artists. The many others are the artist/photographers from the workshops at the Hui. I have also taken Creative Photography for the Soul from Jack Davis and Dewitt Jones at the Hui. Besides the workshops, the Hui’s Facebook page is sharing of images that are over-the-top wonderful.
6. What is the best advice you have received with regards to creativity and what words of wisdom could you offer an aspiring artist?
Slow down, from Rikki Cooke. I still struggle with that. I get excited about creating an image and a way I go. Later, when I do slow down, I often realize that I was missing something. I’ve gotten better, and make fewer, better images than before, but it’s still a struggle. Words of wisdom? Be true to yourself. Create what is pleasing to you. What is your passion? Got more than one? Then create with them all. Don’t give up – give in to who you are.
7. Artists usually have their own unique approach to creating, what would you say is yours? (i.e. methods, routines etc) How has it changed from when you first began?
My approach has changed, for sure. Before, I’d just jump right into a landscape, a flower, whatever I perceived as my subject. Now I look first, and shoot second and shoot again. Often now, before I shoot, I have at least some pre-visualization of what I want to do. However, the best art often comes as a surprise: “Where did that come from?!”
8. What are some of your goals as an artist?
Primarily, I want to explore more of what I feel, and reflect those feelings in my art. Open my eyes, ears, mind and heart, and just let go – a difficult thing for me do, but necessary. Additionally, make more time to create. Day-to-day life is important, but there is more, much more.
9. Tell us about your current works in progress.
I have just begun to experiment shooting with a Canon G15 that has been converted to infrared. It is another creative photo technique I learned about while at the Hui. While there likely will be some color in some of my final images, my intention, for now, is to create black & white infrared images. I recently spent a couple of days at Shore Acres State Park (Oregon Coast) where there is an incredible garden. The great thing about infrared is that the best time to shoot (noon) is typically not the best time of day for “regular” photography, so you can keep on creating all day long.
10. Where can we find your work? (Links, galleries etc)
I would like to thank Bob for taking time out of his busy schedule to share his thoughts with us. Please take a moment to check out his links, not to mention his wonderful work.