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Ashland artist premieres salmon art at Rogue Gallery

Schools of bold black-and-white salmon appear to be swimming along the walls of the Rogue Gallery & Art Center as Ashland artist Julia Janeway displays her latest ceramic creations.

Oval tiles featuring migrating fish are interspersed with colorful red and turquoise tiles inspired by the totem poles and ceremonial masks of indigenous Pacific Northwest tribes — especially the Tlingit people, who are world-renowned for their artwork.

Janeway's tiles are complemented by Portland artist Jonnel Covault's water-themed linocut prints and Medford artist Randall Perkins' blown-glass flowers and fern fronds in the exhibit "Garden Frolic." The exhibit continues through May 26 at the Rogue Gallery, 40 S. Bartlett St., Medford. An artists' reception is set for 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, May 20, during downtown Medford's monthly Third Friday Art Walk.

Janeway said she grew up fishing with her grandfather in the Rocky Mountains, where an eight-inch trout was considered a good catch.

It wasn't until she went on a guided fishing trip in the Pacific Northwest with her 10-year-old son that she gained a deeper appreciation for the size and power of salmon. They also visited the Rogue River during spawning season — the last stage in the life cycle for a fish that hatches in the river, grows to adulthood in the ocean, then battles through rapids as it returns up the river to reproduce and, battered and exhausted, die.

"They create so much turbulence in the Rogue River during spawning season. There are big rafts of them," Janeway said. "That was the first time I had drifted over dead salmon and got an appreciation for how big they are."

She said she was inspired by their epic journeys.

"They are amazing for so many reasons. They are so similar to birds because they're migratory," she said. "I was meditating on the journey the salmon take collectively as a species and I was also meditating on the journey of the individual fish."

Each of the salmon tiles is unique. Some are naturalistic, while others have geometric patterns, stylized eyes and other imagery from Pacific Northwest tribes carved into their fins and sides. Others have pieces of flesh missing, showing the ribs inside the fish, a mark of the damage they endure swimming upstream.

Janeway said she liked black and white for the salmon tiles, but also wanted splashes of color in the installation. Mixed in with the fish tiles, her black, white, red and turquoise tiles borrow from the abstract styles developed over the centuries in indigenous art — while also placing her salmon within the full web of life that includes other animals and humans.

"I did my own riff on their graphic lines," she said. "There are bear claws, arrows, abstract boat patterns with waves, the claw of a bird coming down like an osprey. There are also some hooks for fishing."

Tying together perfectly with Janeway's tiles, Covault's black-and-white linocut prints masterfully depict natural themes. In "Salmon River's End," a killdeer bird stands watch as a forest-lined river empties into the ocean, hay stack rocks in the distance.

In "Fishing Willamette Falls," herons are darkly silhouetted against a frothing, raging white waterfall.

Perkins has created fanciful, multi-colored blown glass versions of exotic flowers and new fern fronds on the brink of unfurling.

The Rogue Gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. For more information, call 541-772-8118 or visit www.roguegallery.org.

For a peak into Janeway's ceramic studio in the woods on the outskirts of Ashland and for more images of her work, visit her Instagram page at "wasithere."

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.