Renee Couture, a multi-media artist from Glide, Ore., peaks over a piece she created during her residency at Pine Meadow Ranch in Sisters, Ore., on Nov. 3, 2021. The piece showcases a photo of Couture as a young child in a pink tutu that was later covered by paint, shapes and other markings by her daughter. Couture created the piece with her daughter—who is a same age as she was when the photo was taken—to explore what it means to be young and the differences and similarities between her and her child.
Couture holds an image of her younger self. For much of her career, Couture’s art focused on the “personal and political.” Specifically, her work was influenced by her rural background and humanity’s relationship with place. Her focus shifted when she became unexpectedly pregnant at 42. Since the birth of her now two-year-old daughter, much of Couture’s work has centered around parenthood, post-partum depression and her own childhood.
Couture poses in her studio next to two blank canvases. In her work, Couture explores post-partum depression; something she describes as the “ugly secret” of motherhood. “Motherhood has totally fractured me, cracked my foundation and just upended everything,” Couture says. Recently, Couture has worked towards building that foundation back up. “The last probably year I’ve been slowly putting things back together and reclaiming bits of myself,” Couture says.
Through motherhood, Couture has used her art to explore her own childhood and how, she feels, some of her parent’s bad habits were hard-wired in her. “That’s something that I really pushed against over the past decade, but where I find myself falling into because I’m so tired all the time,” Couture says.
Courtney McCall—a multi-media artist and fourth-year student at the University of Oregon—gazes through one of her unfinished sculptures, in Eugene, Ore, on Nov. 15th, 2021. McCall, who began as printmaker and recently transitioned into sculpting, says she uses her work to explore herself, vulnerability and social issues. “I originally started in printmaking, but I just had a hard time translating what I wanted onto such a 2D surface,” McCall says.
McCall made this piece to represent her own experience with domestic violence. To McCall, this sculpture is meant to show how delicate she had to be during times when she felt something as simple as a footstep could lead to her own harm.
McCall sits amongst various prints she’s made over the past two years. McCall began to explore her Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in some of her prints after she was diagnosed at the age of 21. Some of her work features amalgamations of objects that represent the different ADHD symptoms that she experiences. “I wanted to depict objects that I considered to be a part of my everyday ADHD,” McCall says.
“Throughout my artistic process, I have learned to have more trust in myself,” McCall says. To her, focusing her work around trauma has allowed her to heal. “Since I’m doing a lot of trauma work, I do a lot of healing. Some experiences or emotions that I portray were often gaslit or neglected which are reasons why I like to display them,” McCall says.
Roberta Lavadour, a bookbinding artist from Pendleton, Ore.—who specializes in artist books and design bindings—holds one of her books during her residency at Pine Meadow Ranch in Sisters, Ore., on Nov. 3, 2021. The piece, which features paper hand-cut by Lavadour, creates an inconsistent yet intentional texture. According to Lavadour, much of her work is guided by structure, texture and the connections between materials. “I almost feel like I have a brain in my hands,” Lavadour says.
Lavadour holds a small book that she has worked on the last few days of her residency. The book was created from a children’s drum that Lavadour found at a local thrift store. Lavadour has been creating books for almost 30 years. She oftentimes finds herself collecting materials before she knows how to use them in a piece. “I could’ve never conceived this three days ago, but what I can conceive of is my capacity to make something happen,” Lavadour says. Regardless of what she’s creating, Lavadour says she relies on a foundation of skills that she’s built over time to direct her process.
Various flowers and winding tendrils from Lavadour’s garden lie on a work table in her studio at Pine Meadow Ranch. As a child, Lavadour says she had a natural sense of exploration. Oftentimes, she would find herself examining the materials in her life and finding ways to make them interact. “I think it’s something innate in me. For me, it’s so deeply deeply satisfying to be able to give in to that natural tendency I had as a kid,” Lavadour says.
To Lavadour, an artist book is much more than “a container that you fill up.” To her, books are a medium that allows her to work with various types of materials while remaining under the umbrella of book artistry. “I really love the idea of presenting something that is new,” Lavarour says. “I love that, to take a structure that people have been working with forever and do something totally different with it.”
David Placencia peers over one of his acrylic paintings in Eugene, Ore, on Nov. 19th, 2021. Placencia is an artist who primarily works with acrylic paints. In his work, Placencia explores something he calls khaostasis which is the exploration of the balance between chaos and stasis. “Chaos in Greek literally translates as the gap, and it's the gap between us and perfection. In this sense, God. Then stasis, one may know the word homeostasis when your blood is in balance. It literally means to span the gap. khaostasis is my representative moniker. Every time I see something artistic, or when I’m making art or I see a beautiful artwork from someone, its the only time I feel this otherness and connection with something greater than me,” Placencia says.
Placencia says he’s motivated by “endless pursuit of finalization and completeness.” To Placencia, when something piques his interest, he feels he has to make a painting of it. “It's almost like a very happy Sisyphus. It's not that you're doomed to roll their boulder forever, it's that you get to,” Placencia says. “If you do what you love, then your work is your passion and your free time as well.”
Khaostasis is not only Placencia’s moniker, but also how he creates his art. When Placencia works, he has what he calls “chaos days” and “stasis days.” Chaos days usually involve manipulating the canvas and working with abnormal tools like sandpaper, spray bottles and even old brushes that have long been hardened by unwashed paint. Stasis days involve a much more controlled environment and precise tools like fine paintbrushes. In turn, Placencia creates chaos, then structures that chaos into something visually beautiful through his stasis days.
In 2009, Placencia lost his mother—who was an artist herself and a large inspiration to his work—to a type of cancer called Cholangiocarcinoma. On the way home from the funeral, Placencia was in a car accident. Within a month, both of Placencia’s legs stopped functioning. It took an emergency back surgery and a year of physical and electroshock therapy before he could move his big toe. Eventually, Placencia gained back most of the function in his legs and started creating art again. Even though he was selling his work and making a mark in the community, Placencia still felt like something was missing. He realized he missed being his mother’s student. That’s when he decided to become a teacher. In 2019, Placencia started WheelHaus Arts—a gallery and studio for k-12 students. “It’s a way for me to always stay energized for art. It’s a big part of my practice,” Placencia says.