The art is in the details

Second Story Gallery Society volunteers create eye-catching displays

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Eleven months out of each year, the unique creations of local artists decorate the walls of the Second Story Gallery, upstairs inside the Camas Public Library.

Mediums vary wildly across the spectrum — watercolors on yupo paper, cement, oils on canvas, landscape and architectural photography, fiber arts and wood sculpture, as well as mixed media work that experiments with textures, colors, patterns and materials.

During the past 12 years the gallery, currently under the leadership of Second Story Gallery Society President Barb Baldus, has become known as a place where emerging and seasoned artists alike are eager to display their work.

But before each show opens with a reception on First Friday, there is a laundry list of tasks that must be completed. Jurying, arranging, hanging and lighting. Each and every detail must be given time and consideration.

Ulrike Halverson, Tulla Burke and Mary Alice Pfeifer spend hours planning, setting up and adjusting each display. Lighting expert Joel Emanuel completes the quartet of Camas residents who have been working together for about eight years.

On Monday, they arrived at the gallery at 10 a.m., and labored into the late afternoon de-constructing the August show and arranging this month’s display, which officially opens Friday.

The collection that will be featured is from the artist group High Fiber Diet. “What’s Blue to You?” takes the form of about two dozen fabric panels measuring 24 inches wide and 60 inches long, running around the gallery in a display of individual interpretations of the color blue.

According to Emanuel, a landscape photographer, the presentation of the fiber and textile pieces presented a few challenges, but in reality the effort was easier than most.

“There is a consistency in the level of color,” he explained, adding that each piece of fabric is essentially the same size. “Acrylic and oil paintings tend to be more difficult.”

With measuring tape and level in hand Halverson, an accomplished watercolor artist, is passionate about making sure every piece is displayed just right.

“Sometimes, everything just falls into place really easily,” she said. “Other times, we just struggle, and struggle and struggle. But it always looks good at the end.”

Halverson has been involved with the Camas library’s art gallery since well before the building’s remodel and expansion that was completed in 2003. The gallery got its start in the original library’s cozy attic space.

A member of the non-profit Second Story Gallery Society Board of Governors, Halverson once arranged the gallery’s shows primarily on her own, appreciates the talents her three cohorts bring to the table.

“Tulla and Mary Alice have fantastic eyes for the artwork,” Halverson said. “We all work very well together.”

Burke grew up in a family of artists, but never pursued it herself.

“I find it very challenging to take different pictures or fiber arts and put them in a combination that is pleasing to the eye, without taking anything away from any one of them,” she said. “It’s about finding a balance.”

This approach was apparent as they configured High Fiber Diet’s latest project, which came about when members challenged themselves to “observe the visual and conceptual presence of blue in their lives and creative processes.”

According to the artist’s statement, the color blue carries with it a great deal of symbolism — from feeling blue or singing the blues, to the serenity of a calm blue lake or the watery blue of camas lilies and of course, the vast blue of the sky.

The pieces that are part of the show reflects each artists’ unique approach to the color blue, including blue steps in Portland’s Japanese Gardens, blue waves hitting the sandy shore at the beach, the deep blue night sky sprinkled with stars, a blue burqa worn by a woman whose feet dance in their red sandals, an Oregon wetland complete with great blue heron, and many more.

Halverson enjoys the process and inherent challenges involved in putting together shows at the Second Story Gallery, no matter what the medium.

“A lot of times, we get the [artwork] for the new shows in and we say, ‘Oh my, how are we going to hang this?,” she said. “It always works out though. It is a feeling of immense satisfaction when we are done. We really have some wonderful artists.”