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Wild Goose fixture paints portraits of discrimination

The Wild Goose waitress stopped by the Dollar Tree on — the way home from work to pick up chalk and a pad of paper. She went home — to learn to draw because she needed to practice before the Wild Goose — staff "paint night" that she had been invited to and, before that day, — hadn't been able to draw a straight line.

"The whole reason I even started was I was looking for — something to do during the winter instead of sitting on the couch and — watching TV," DeMello said. "It was a good release for me."

DeMello, 39, never made it to paint night, but didn't — give up on drawing with chalk and pastels. This year, she moved into using — acrylics and dabbling with oil paint.

"I'm self-taught," said DeMello, a lifelong waitress who — moved to the Rogue Valley from Southern California in 1988. "I'm figuring — it out on my own. It's very rewarding for me because it's all a part of — me."

She no longer needs to worry about the straight line because — the majority of her 200-work portfolio is composed of human faces and — figures she creates from images she finds on-line that show depth and — emotion. Most of her pieces, which are displayed in the restaurant side — of the Wild Goose, depict native Africans. DeMello wonders if she chooses — African art to model because of the discrimination and hate blacks have — experienced in the United States. She says she can understand their feelings — because, as a gay woman, she has been discriminated against for decades. —

"It's just so tough," DeMello said. "People don't even — know you. How can they judge if they don't know you? I just wish I understood — it and what makes people hate."

DeMello hopes she can grow in the art world enough to — have the resources to reach out to young gays to help them accept who — they are and teach others to support their choices.

"I keep telling people, 'yeah, I'll be famous someday,'" — she said, promising it will happen before she dies so she can revel in — it. "I believe we create our own destiny."

Her work is always on display at the Wild Goose, where — locals, travelers, college students and collectors have purchased her — prints and originals and, on Friday, DeMello takes the next step in making — her destiny when her third show opens. The exhibit will be at the Abdill-Ellis — Center in the basement of the Historic Ashland Armory, 208 Oak St., and — be open from 6 to 9 p.m. during the First Friday Art Walk.

For more information, go to www.artbytoni.com.

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 — x 3019 or jsquires@dailytidings.com.