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Haines art grants bear fruit

Among the works at tonight’s First Friday showing featuring the 2017 Haines & Friends artist awardees, you’ll find Afro-fantasy futurist portraits done in ballpoint pen, studies of Mount Rainier drawn from a 92-mile hike around its base, portraits of American women writers and oils and a book inspired by plants and animals on a Rogue Valley farm.

These and the creative output of a others in an 18-artist coterie enabled by $2,500 to $5,000 grants from Ashland lawyer and philanthropist Lloyd Haines and others he inspired to contribute to artists for their “personal growth and/or educational or community-based projects, including public art” will be on display.

Ashlander Micah Lael might be the only artist in the world opening a show done with ballpoint pen. His portraits of “archetypal beings that I pulled from the ethers” seek to plumb the imagination of non-white people and their roots in Africa.

Most fantasy and mythology shows white-skinned people, so this native New Yorker aims to “speak to the part of ourselves that resonates with archetypal essences … and harkens to ancient Africa’s indigenous cultures, which, I think, put a unique light on the importance of fantasy.”

Why ballpoint? “At first I kept doing drawings and I would erase what I was not happy with. Then, I asked myself, ‘what happens if I can’t erase? What if I have to navigate mistakes and find a way to make everything work? I have to make it feel they are not mistakes. It’s a metaphor for life: there are no takebacks. We do what we do and can’t undo it.”

His $3,500 grant “enabled me to pay bills so I can work on this art, when I would ordinarily use that time to work for someone else as a freelance artist. It took a long time and bills have to be paid, food put on the table,” he says. “I feel the grants are one of the most simply incredible gifts. They make it easy to apply, with not a lot of hoops and they let you use it in every way you want for the creation of art. It’s absolutely magnificent and I wish many others with his means would make it possible in other communities.”

Kristen O’Neill’s studies of Mount Rainier in many moods are inspired by the legendary “Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji” by Hokusai, circa 1830.

O’Neill is a single mom of two and was able to get supplies and “move forward, not digging into the family budget.” It will also fund publication of a book on the series. Photos for the paintings were taken by friends who made the hike around Rainier and, she says, she will do it when she has more time.

“I really love this grant because it’s directed at the artist. A lot of competitions on the national level make you feel so defeated before you start, as 10,000 or 15,000 people apply. But this is direct, inspires creativity in our own community and I’m so proud to be part of that.”

Ashlander Mabrie Ormes used her $3,000 grant for portraits of American women writers although, in her exhibit there will be others who write in English. On display will be Edith Wharton, Gertrude Stein, Willa Cather and Louisa May Alcott.

A literary major in college, Ormes said “I read millions of male authors and finally, I said ‘I will concentrate on women. It’s been an extremely inspiring experience and has contributed to my life as a woman artist.”

She is working on a group of 10, including Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, Harriet Jacobs (freed slave) and Carson McCullers. However, Ormes ran into an obstacle, that you can’t paint from a copyrighted photo without paying a $500 licensing free, which was not feasible. So she is focusing on women who died more than 70 years ago, because those photos are in the public domain.

“The grant has been amazing. It’s my second. It means so much to an artist. I have no idea if anyone is interested in buying these, but I’m at the Lithia Artisans Market every weekend selling them. I like to have time to support myself with art. It’s great to have someone believe in you.”

Judy Weiner’s grant of $2,500 allowed her to publish a book of her nature paintings, with commentary on each one. “The book cost a lot. I hired an editor and a photographer. My oil paintings are from nature, around my farm — leaves, trees, animals. I just heard of the grant in time. I’d never heard of it before. I’m quite delighted, otherwise I would not have been able to do the project.”

The exhibit is open from 5 to 8 p.m. tonight, Friday, in the Crystal Ballroom of Ashland Springs Hotel, with all artists present, at 212 East Main St. in Ashland. It will also be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, with some artists present.

Applications for next year’s grants start in July.

— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.