Eight Reasons You Should be at the GLEAN Opening this Thursday

2016 GLEANers11. You know and/or have been following the work of the five artists this year and want to see the show!

Glean 2-29-16 1st Day of Gleaning2. You have been to the Metro Transfer Station and have gleaning envy.

13585209_249218348794792_3004896339006385534_o3. You are incredulous that beauty can come from anything found at “the dump.”

Erinn, Amanda and the tires4. You are an artist who’s interested in applying for next year’s GLEAN residency and want to be part of the “in crowd”

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5. You are hungry/thirsty and like looking at stuff while you eat and drink.

full6. You saw this still from my favorite movie The Gleaners and I and are confused about what this is. (It’s a potato. Not gonna be in the show. Sorry. But read my recent blog post if you want to know more about this amazing movie!)

vik_muniz_passione27. You saw Wasteland and want to relive that movie locally.

13975532_10153984468553402_5200431189740813433_o8. You want to get one of my recycled newspaper pencil souvenirs I had custom printed for the opening! Free to anyone who comes to the opening and makes a comment about my work that doesn’t involve a Tinkertoys reference! (Not that I disagree–I just hear it a lot and hoping to get some more original feedback.) Make Art Not Garbage!

Glean Opening reception – Thursday, August 11 from 6-9PM
The Bison Building 421 NE 10th Ave. Portland

Gallery hours: Friday, Saturday and Sundays 12-5pm through August 27.

The Gleaners and I

fullNow that I’m “done” with the work for the Glean residency, (pending installation,) I finally had some time to watch one of my favorite films of all time: Agnes Varda’s “The Gleaners and I.” It’s pretty much the only movie that I own, and it’s great to revisit it every so often. This film is a beautiful portrait of the practice of gleaning through the eyes of an aging woman. I won’t spoil the movie for you by showing some of my favorite moments–it’s truly a treat to hear Varda narrate the film and see the world through her eyes.

Picture120091121091135According to Varda, women are the original gleaners. She opens the film with this painting done in 1867 by Millet, titled “The Gleaners.”

In France, gleaning is not just a common practice, it’s actually written into the law that for all commercial crops, there is a post-harvest period of time after November 1st when the public can enter the land and forage for what’s left. We also learn that people from all economic classes take advantage of this law–some are even chefs who are eager to gather up perfectly ripe and free fruits and vegetables to serve their customers. The film shows many examples of urban gleaning as well–including an artist who finds their materials in the streets. This screen shot points out that stooping is a common denominator amongst all gleaners.maxresdefault

One of the sweet moments in the film is when Varda and her film crew stumble upon a reproduction of the famous Millet painting in a thrift store.still_gleaners

And next to the painting was a wheat chaff, so she posed for a self portrait.Picture320091121091113

Varda is brilliant where she brings her own story into this documentary. I think it’s one big reason why I return to this film so often. Summer always reminds me of my first art residency a decade ago at the Center for Art in Wood. Now I’ll also always think of Les glaneurs et la glaneuse. It’s been a really great past five months being able to glean at the Metro Waste Facility and then working hard to put this show together. I can’t wait to see it installed next week.tumblr_np7ivbkwju1qfdatho1_1280

Opening reception – Thursday, August 11 from 6-9PM
The Bison Building 421 NE 10th Ave. Portland

Gallery hours: Friday, Saturday and Sundays 12-5pm through August 27.

Sketching a Sculpture

IMG_1268 It wasn’t until I went back to art school in 1995 that I truly fell in love with the pencil. Previously, I had spent my days finding the perfect pen to express my moods and create the most permanent of doodles. But something changed when I learned to design furniture, and for several years I would never be found without one tucked behind my ear. Now that I have my own studio, my special pencils are strategically placed on every work surface, bearing their printed reminders of places I’ve visited all around the world.

It was one of my first visits to the Metro Transfer Station when I was handed a small chest of drawers by one of the workers there. Each drawer was filled with basic office supplies: X-acto tools, felt-tipped pens, highlighters, note pads, adhesives, and a ton of pencils. Within the next month, I had my second major pencil encounter–someone had dumped a stamp and coin collection, along with other materials from someone’s office space. I came back with dozens of perfectly sharpened pencils that never got to scribe the words intended by their diligent sharpener.5_sounds_2_small

I’ve seen many artists use pencils in their work, but my favorite by far was Gord Peteran’s series of drawings titled “Five Sounds.” He did this series during his 2002 residency at the Center for Art in Wood, and they are now part of their permanent collection. Peteran’s series takes you through his varied approaches to draw a circle with pencil, paper, a lathe, and his body. The above drawing is the second in his series, when he mounted the paper onto a piece of plywood and held the pencil in his hand. I love this journal of the relationship between human and machine.

IMG_1308It was nice to be, again, reminded of Peteran’s series while I did the rough shaping of my forms with the pencils already embedded. Depending on the spacing of the pencils, it would create a circular “drawing” on my sanding disc. The graphite produced more minimalist drawings.

IMG_1280And you can even see a ghost of the sanding process on the face of each piece. I like it because it is a subtle reminder of the spontaneous drawing exercises I employed while in the design stages of this installation. Similarly, I use the disc sander with a high grit paper so I can quickly make shapes. This detail shot reveals the nuances in pencil wood grain you can sometimes spot in even this pea-sized cross-section. I also like how the yellow paint that once dominated the pencil’s appearance is subtly evident around the edges.

IMG_1240Fortuitously for this project, one of my fellow Gleaners left me a pack of colored pencils one day.

IMG_1257It’s been fun to let people discover this found object that’s in each of the 50 pieces I made for this installation. The entire form is seen first, an then there’s often an expression of surprise when they recognize this everyday object that has now become a design element.

I feel a little sad cutting apart the batch of pencils that were so carefully sharpened, but hope that somewhere out there in the universe, their previous owner knows that they didn’t end up in the landfill. Or perhaps they’ll start again with tips from pencil sharpening expert David Rees:

work in progress

IMG_1121As you may have guessed, it’s all systems go here while I bring this body of work together for the Glean residency. Here’s a few studio shots I took in the past month.

Below, a shot I took when I was lacking an available surface for drawing a full-scale model of a sketch, so I used my studio doorway.IMG_1097 Sometimes the littlest bits are interesting to me. These tiny “spoons” were clipped from the intricate network inside a piano found at the Metro Transfer Station and will become decorative elements in some of my pieces.IMG_1108 I was so busy this month, I would sometimes squeeze an hour in here or there just making shapes so that I could assemble sculptures later.IMG_1109 trying to make the tail ends of some very old clothespins work into a piece. So far, I’ve only been satisfied with the nobby ends, but I keep playing with these long pieces, which look like tailfeathers.IMG_1123 IMG_1122  note nobby ends in the images below!IMG_1120 IMG_1125 One benefit of having a great day in the studio is when I spend the following night dreaming about design ideas. This is one such instance, where I woke up with a vision of a solid piece with shapes removed, rather than the additive building of shapes that I typically do. I want to keep pursuing this idea!IMG_1014Today was the monthly Glean studio review so I decided to bring the 25 pieces I’ve designed (but not stained or glued together) outside and hang them in my covered work area to get a better sense of how they will look en masse. The final show will be multi-tiered with more breathing room, but it was great to see them in a new setting.




many mobiles

IMG_0851I’ve been pushing in the studio for the past few weeks, trying to “sketch out” as many of my lure mobiles as I could before our mid-residency review last Friday. I worked out a lot of them through drawing, and some others have been designed instinctively. So far I have thirteen that are at least started–click here to see a video of what it feels like to be in my studio right now!

It feels so good to be on a roll with this project, so I’m trying to go with it as much as I can right now, since I need to devote July to wrapping up another big project. Only two of these are stained and glued, as photos were needed for the card, but I am already wanting to take one of them apart to revisit the colors. I plan to keep designing and assembling my lures for the next month, so I can glue and stain them in July. If all goes well, I’ll have two dozen by showtime.

Again, I can’t be more pleased with the Bison Building as our venue. My spot will allow people to stand beneath them, walk up the staircase next to them, and look down on them from the balcony above.

Here’s the one I’m completely satisfied with, made with discarded furniture and pencils: LURE_72

A detail shows the subtle detail of the embedded pencils:LURE_detail

I will fear no evil

IMG_0825Had a fun day at the Metro Transfer Station yesterday with fellow artist-in-residence Dan Pillers. Here he is with a discarded desk drawer, which soon became our motto of the day.

IMG_0828I didn’t come out with a ton of materials yesterday but did glean some items peripherally related to the making of art, including a big collection of metal files of all shapes and sizes, a handtruck, and this deluxe boot remover, perfect for post-Gleaning hands-free boot removal (thanks to Dan for knowing what it was!)

I also found four beautiful large stainless steel welded mesh panels that will be perfect for hanging my lure mobiles. Speaking of which, we got to see the new exhibition space at the Bison Building the other day and I am so happy the show found a home more suitable for my work! Here’s a shot I took of the space I’ll be filling with mobiles in just three months! the vicinity of those big girders is a 300 square foot zone with 12′ of height to play with.IMG_0817

It’s so inspiring to finally know where my work will be shown and I can’t wait to get into the studio today. I have been sketching like a madwoman and so far have four of my lures in their preliminary stages of construction. I will push to get 12-20 designed before the middle of June so I can spend the final six weeks of the residency doing the tedious but important work getting the color and joinery and installation just right. Mark your calendars!IMG_0832


I’ve (finally) settled on my project for the GLEAN residency– the “lure” idea I was toying with earlier will become an installation of suspended wood sculptures. It took a while to get to the exact vocabulary for these, but after a lot of sketching, I’m really excited about this new body of work that’s both a continuation of my past “Weather Patterns” designs, and new territory. I’ve been waiting for years to do some mobiles……apparently now is the time.

The main materials gleaned from the Metro Transfer Station that I’ll be using for these pieces are hardwoods from discarded furniture that will ultimately be colored with stains I’ve claimed from the hazardous waste section. If I come across some interesting materials along the way, I’ll incorporate those too–here’s the first piece when I was still laying it out. It has some embedded pencils and some tiny metal parts from a piano to add subtle design elements.IMG_0727

I need these pieces to work in the round, so once I built this initial part and could hang it, I added some lateral spines.IMG_0729

Here’s a few more pieces in the works.IMG_0738IMG_0751IMG_0750

over the river and through the industrial zone….a gleaning we will go…..

We’re just about a third of the way into the GLEAN residency, and I’ve been regularly stopping in at Metro couple of times a week to see what materials might be of interest for my project. It’s a sweet journey that has developed some routines that I love.

I live in Northeast Portland, so it’s usually about a 15 minute drive door to door. I listen to whatever’s on our local jazz station KMHD on both drives which gets me in the mood. This is a trick I sometimes use in the studio when I need to force myself into a place where I work more quickly and intuitively. Portland is so lucky to have an amazing jazz station.IMG_0463I always bring along my sweet companion Weegee, who’s always up for errands. He’s also come to know that there’s treats in the mix for him at the booth you pass when you both enter and exit the Transfer Station. In fact, as soon as we pull up, he’s in my lap leaning out the window. Here’s Candy giving him his entry handful.IMG_0455In other news, I built a shed so I could store all of the materials I’ve been gleaning this year. It’s made almost entirely from stuff I grabbed out of the dump, including some wheels I removed from a discarded stage, a well-built palette for the floor, ripple roofing, and the walls were made from these two discarded sets from the locally-shot TV show Grimm.IMG_0578At first I thought it would be funny to have the police lineup on the outside, but then I realized that they were made using temporary decals and the plywood was indoor grade, so I just used to to do the initial framing because it was easier for me to build and lift the structure by myself. I ended up buying three sheets of exterior plywood to further clad the structure, decorated the sides a little with some cutouts leftover from a public art project last year that are also on the facade of my adjacent studio, and used some leftover house paint to finish it up. I still want to trim it and find some interesting panel to add in the space above the door.IMG_0582here’s the front view with some of my current large-item stash neatly stored insideIMG_0583a metal shelf with gleaned plastic storage bins holds smaller materials I’ve gleaned. You can also see the flowers and birds on that outer wall.IMG_0587Here’s a better shot of the wall…..IMG_0584some of the simple design elements from the inner studio sideIMG_0586This is the back side that’s pushed up against my fence–I added a little art for the neighbors so they didn’t have to just look at a gray wall.

Excited to be able to spend the rest of the month actually playing in the studio! I had a great visit last week from last year’s Gleaner and friend Brenda Mallory, who gave me some great feedback on the few pieces I’ve made already. Even though I watched her go through it last year, it was really helpful to have a critique at this juncture.

Lastly, I was hoping to find a weird patch or something to fancy-up my safety vest and found this sweet pin in a pile of costume jewelry. Weegee approves!!


word of the day


to remove upholstery tacks from a previously discarded item.

“She expertly depillerated the chair she found in the Metro Transfer Station.”


early 21st century: from middle French or Medieval Latin and North/Northeast Portlandian; de-, depil- meaning to remove (upholstery tacks nee hair) + North/Northeast Portlandian; -piller, referring to GLEAN resident Dan Pillers, known for his inspiring removal of upholstery tacks from objects found at the Metro Waste Facility, and, whom, also happens to have a name with the connective link of hair.*

First Known Use: 2016 by fellow Glean artist Hilary Pfeifer, after removing approximately 38 upholstery tacks in the same fashion. She stopped, laughed, took a photo, shared it on Instagram and Facebook, and then continued to depillerate the two chairs she found that day.


*it will be noted that no errant hair was detected in the depillerating of this chair.