From the ordinary, a ‘world of beauty and love’

Camas artist finds extraordinary human connections within everyday rituals

Alex Neal, 19, a 2018 Camas High grad, shows off her bright, yellow rain boots, which inspired the "Yellow Boots" painting by her mother, Jennifer Neal, shown here at Second Story Gallery.

With its songbirds, white coffee plant blossoms and red coffee plant berries, "Blossoms and Berries" painting by Camas artist Jennifer Neal connects the everyday ritual of making and drinking a cup of coffee with the larger world. The painting is part of Neal's art show at the Second Story Gallery, above the Camas Public Library, which runs through Jan. 28.

Melissa Cole's painting "Afortunada," will be part of the January art show at the Attic Gallery in Camas. (Courtesy of Attic Gallery)

Some of the copper foil fish work done by David Gerton of Camas. (Courtesy of Camas Gallery)

Artist Sharon Engel's painting "Spring in High Country," pictured here, will be part of the January art show at the Attic Gallery in Camas. (Contributed photo courtesy of Attic Gallery)

A series of coffee-inspired paintings by Camas artist Jennifer Neal hang inside the Second Story Gallery in downtown Camas. (Kelly Moyer/Post-Record)

For most people, making and drinking a cup of coffee in the morning likely doesn’t provoke any deep thoughts or overwhelming emotions.

But for Camas artist Jennifer Neal, this simple morning ritual has led to a whole new world.

“I’m interested in creating art that explores how our human connections are embodied in the materials and rituals of our daily lives, and how those reflect beauty or brutality.”

An art class project sparked her interest in the seemingly mundane ritual of making and drinking coffee every morning.

“I started to intentionally think about each step,” Neal says. “I’d put the kettle on and hear sounds I’d never noticed before. I thought about where the beans came from, how many people had to work the soil and about the clean water it takes to grow those beans.”

The project became an almost spiritual meditation for the Camas artist. As she made her own cup of morning coffee, her thoughts turned to farmers in Central America, to the song birds affected by the coffee beans’ growing processes and about the vast amount of energy and human-power it takes to deliver those beans from their source to her home.

Her coffee musings also led to more concrete forms of expression. In her two-month “The World is Full of Beauty and Love” art show at the Second Story Gallery in Camas, Neal has highlighted several paintings that emerged from her coffee meditations.

“Blossoms and Berries,” a bold painting featuring teal and turquoise songbirds on a cup of coffee surrounded by the white blossoms and red berries of a coffee plant, hangs on the gallery’s south-facing wall, while a series of smaller, coffee-inspired paintings take up much of the gallery’s northern wall.

“There is beauty in a cup of coffee,” Neal says. “As I thought about this whole process of making the coffee, of all the connections to these other people … I felt less lonely.”

Neal says she loves creating art with a backstory, and “prefers the beautiful story, the one that acknowledges the deep wounds of the world and imagines less brutal possibilities.”

On the gallery’s western wall, near the entrance, a painting of yellow rain boots is cheerful and modern — much like Neal’s daughter, Alex, her inspiration for the piece.

“It’s the simplest one here,” Neal says of her “Yellow Boots” artwork. “But I love it.”

The story of “the boots,” as Alex Neal calls them, is that the 19-year-old Camas High alumni and soon-to-be student at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia, saw a pair of yellow rain boots at a store in Portland and decided she had to have them. The boots were unique, but also pricey, and the teenager didn’t have enough money to buy them on the spot. So, she saved up, and waited, hoping the boots would still be there.

“I just thought, ‘I am getting those boots,'” Alex Neal says.

And, right after her high school graduation in June of 2018, that’s exactly what she did. It was summertime, but the teenage Neal didn’t care. She wore her new boots with pride — no matter if they matched her outfit or if it was raining out.

Seeing how much her daughter loved her new boots — and knowing how well those boots matched her daughter’s sunny, vibrant personality — Jennifer Neal immortalized the yellow rain boots.

Alex Neal wore “the boots” to her mother’s Dec. 7 artist reception at the Second Story Gallery, located above the Camas Public Library at 625 N.E. Fourth Ave., and posed with pride in front of Jennifer Neal’s “Yellow Boots” artwork.

Neal’s paintings will be on exhibit through Jan. 26 during regular library hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Wednesday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday. For more information, visit secondstorygallery.net.

Camas celebrates First Friday with artist receptions, ‘Clue’ theme Jan. 4

Neal’s art show is running through the end of January at the Second Story Gallery, but because she has a two-month show, her artist reception happened on Dec. 7. Other downtown Camas art galleries will celebrate their January shows with artist receptions on Friday, Jan. 4, as part of the Downtown Camas Association (DCA)’s First Friday event.

The Attic Gallery will show new paintings by artists Melissa Cole and Sharon Engel through Jan. 29, and host a free First Friday artists’ reception featuring new art, music, wine and chocolate from 5 to 8 p.m., Jan 4, at the gallery, 421 N.E. Cedar St., Camas.

The January Attic Gallery featured art reflects the adventures of two world travelers — Cole is married to wildlife photographer, Brandon Cole, and often travels to exotic locations with her husband. She has scuba dived and swam with whales, dolphins, tiger sharks and manatees and enjoys painting this underwater world using a technique that incorporates vivid colors, textures, unique materials like glass beads, distinctive borders and intricate patterns. Engel, of Sunriver, Oregon, also is an extensive world traveler who reflects her adventures in her oil paintings. According to Attic Gallery, Engel’s European scenes are inspired by her travels throughout Europe including Venice, Giverny and Monet’s Garden. For more information about the Attic Gallery, visit atticgallery.com.

At the Camas Gallery, David Gerton, a Camas resident who uses copper foil to create three-dimensional, nature-inspired “paintings,” will be the featured artist through Jan. 31. According to the Camas Gallery, Gerton’s method includes taking a piece of flat copper foil and using small hammers and embossing tools to shape the foil into “life-like” images. He then uses a variety of patinas and washes to “antique” and color the copper. Camas Gallery will host a free First Friday event from 5 to 8 p.m., Jan. 4. For more information, visit Facebook.com/Camas Gallery.

This month’s First Friday celebration has a “Clue” theme based on the board game and 1985 mystery-comedy film, which will play at 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 4, at the Liberty Theatre in downtown Camas.

Participating merchants will have clues for customers hoping to solve “The Case of the Missing Cupcakes,” and earn tickets to win prizes. Those who solve the case also get an extra ticket and free mini-cupcake courtesy of Cake Happy, also located in downtown Camas.

Other First Friday activities planned for Jan. 4, include: a 5 p.m. ribbon-cutting at the Artful Attic, a new business in Camas devoted to custom artwork created by the shop’s owners, Lori Lander and Tyson Morris, as well as original pieces by local artists; a 5:30 p.m. ribbon-cutting at Salon Magnolia to celebrate that business’ new spa; and a children’s craft table at Journey Church.

For more information about First Friday, visit downtowncamas.com.