Downtown Camas is ‘going green’ for First Friday

Attic Gallery opens abstract art show; features several artists, including painter whose work inspired gallery's creation in '70s

Photos show the original Attic Gallery in the 1970s, when it was located in the attic of now- gallery co-owner Maria Gonser's childhood home in Portland. The gallery, founded by Gonser's mother, Diana Faville, would eventually move to downtown Portland and, in 2016, to downtown Camas. (Photo courtesy of Maria Gonser, Attic Gallery)

Photos show the original Attic Gallery in the 1970s, when it was located in the attic of now- gallery co-owner Maria Gonser's childhood home in Portland. The gallery, founded by Gonser's mother, Diana Faville, would eventually move to downtown Portland and, in 2016, to downtown Camas. (Photo courtesy of Maria Gonser, Attic Gallery)

Portland artist Sidonie Caron's "Urban Pioneer" painting is one of several that will be featured in the Attic Gallery's abstract art show, March 4-26, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Attic Gallery)

Portland artist Sidonie Caron's "Surfaces" is one of several paintings that will be featured in the Attic Gallery's abstract art show, March 4-26, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Attic Gallery)

Camas will go green this Friday with the return of the Downtown Camas Association’s annual green-themed March First Friday event. 

Participating downtown Camas businesses will kick things off at 5 p.m. on Friday, March 4, with a “Find the Lucky Leprechaun” game offering prizes from various merchants; a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Camas Brewing Co., inside Camas Slices (339 N.E. Cedar St.); a family friendly  “Green Zone” showing how to live a more environmentally sustainable life at Journey Church (304 N.E. Fourth Ave.) featuring the Camas High School Green Team, Camas Farmers Market, Ivy League, EatWell Camas and master gardeners; hidden gold coins throughout downtown Camas; pop-up shops offering flowers and plants; live music at A Beer at a Time (216 N.E. Third Ave.) and Birch Street Lounge (311 N.E. Birch St.); and “green” crafts for children hosted by Girl Scout Troop 47503 at LiveWell Camas (417 N.E. Birch St.). 

The DCA’s First Friday events coincide with new art shows at Camas’ downtown galleries, including the Attic Gallery at 421 N.E. Cedar St., and the Camas Gallery at 408 N.E. Fourth Ave. 

The Attic Gallery is welcoming its very first artist, Sidonie Caron, back for its abstract-themed March art show. 

Maria Gonser, who co-owns the Attic Gallery with her husband, Tommer Gonser, said this is the first time Caron – an Oregon artist who describes herself as an eclectic, experimental painter with a body of work spanning six decades that includes everything from abstracts and mixed-media work to Judaica- Asian- and Western-inspired paintings and a range of cityscapes, mountainscapes and seascapes – has shown at the Attic Gallery since it moved from Portland to Camas in January 2016. 

“She is why this gallery came into existence,” Gonser said of the German-born and London-trained Caron. 

In fact, it was one of Caron’s paintings – discovered by Gonser’s mother, Diana Faville, at a Portland rummage sale in the early 1970s – that first prompted Faville to create an art gallery inside her home in Portland’s West Hills. 

“My mom bought this painting at the Ascension chapel’s rummage sale, and she loved it, but it had a glare on it,” Gonser said. One of Faville’s friends told her she knew the painter – Caron – and thought she might be able to fix the glare. 

Sure enough, Caron corrected the glare and she and Faville ended up becoming close friends. 

“There were only a few galleries (in Portland) then and (Caron was showing at ) the Peanut Gallery,” Gonser said. “My mom went to her show and said, ‘I could do better.’”

“She wanted to have an art show for Sidonie in our living room, but my dad said, “absolutely not … but you can have it in the attic,’ and my dad and two brothers put up plywood and painted it white. They had oriental rugs … It was a nice space.”

Caron was the first artist featured in Faville’s literal Attic Gallery in 1973, and she would go on to show her work at Faville’s gallery – which eventually landed in downtown Portland – for more than 30 years. 

“I believe 2007 was the last time I showed at the Attic Gallery,” Caron said, “though the Camas Library does have a piece of mine.” 

In fact, Caron’s work has been featured throughout the Pacific Northwest – including at the Heidi McBride Gallery in Portland; the Portland Art Museum’s Rental Sales Gallery; the Portland mayor’s office and the Oregon governor’s ceremonial offices in Salem, Oregon; the Oregon Jewish Museum; the Maryhill Museum of Art in Goldendale, Washington;  the Chinese Garden in downtown Portland; dozens of private buildings, including Kaiser Permanente, Microsoft Corp., Georgia-Pacific, Salishan Lodge, Alexis Hotel and Skamania Lodge; and several Seattle and Portland art galleries – and highlighted on media programs like Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB)’s “Oregon Art Beat,” Oregon Home magazine, BBC 4 and NW Magazine. 

“If you examined her career, you’d be hard-pressed to put her into any single category as far as painting goes,” OPB said of Caron in a 2012 “Oregon Art Beat” episode.

“I love experimenting,” Caron told the OPB reporter. “Someone said I was ‘too diverse,’ but I realize that’s my brain. I alight on something like a butterfly, then move on. It keeps me fresh. I have this horror of being formulaic.”
Caron’s diversity as an artist means she has amassed an eclectic assortment of her own abstract, landscape, seascape, mountainscape and Asian-influenced paintings. Lately, she said, she has been revisiting those paintings and revamping them. 

“I’m overpainting a lot of the ones I now feel I could do a lot better,” Caron said. “I believe you go on learning all your life … that you can get better and better with time.” 

Camas area art lovers will have a chance to see six of Caron’s abstract paintings at the Attic Gallery today through March 26, at the gallery’s group abstract show, featuring not just Caron but a variety of abstract artists, including Camas painter Mike Smith; Attic Gallery co-owner Tommer Gonser; Eugene, Oregon native Sheary Clough Suiter, who will show her encaustic abstracts; Marlene Alexander; Bill Baily; Nard Claar; Earl Hamilton; Deb McCarroll; and Jean Shwalbe. 

“It’s a very diverse show,” Gonser said. “Nobody is like each other at all. There’s a really cool variety of abstracts.” 

The group abstract show will be on display inside the Attic Gallery from March 4-26. The gallery will host an artists reception with live music and complimentary wine and chocolates, from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, March 4. Caron will not be able to attend the reception in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but her paintings will be on display. 

To learn more about the gallery, visit atticgallery.com. To learn more about Sidonie Caron, visit sidoniekcaron.com. And to learn more about the DCA’s First Friday event, visit downtowncamas.com.