Leah Faure, Art in Oregon’s current artist-in-residence, also on display in the historic residence.
Art is alive and thriving in Oregon City, with paintings by Kelsey Birsa on display until September 17 at the Mary Elizabeth Gallery inside the historic Stevens-Crawford House.
Additionally, August artist-in-residence Leah Faure has paintings hung there in the studio space and plans to show works in progress throughout the month.
Both women support Art in Oregon’s goal of “building and sustaining artistic patronage through pride in Oregon artists and pride in art ownership,” said AiO co-founder Tammy. Jo Wilson, a resident of Oregon City.
Founded in 2017, Art in Oregon is a statewide visual arts nonprofit that strives to build bridges between artists and communities.
The organization’s mission is to build collaborative relationships with the common goal of increasing visibility and access to art for all.
Marie Elisabeth Gallery
The Mary Elizabeth Gallery “is not your average white box gallery. Artwork hangs from the original wooden picture rails that line the house’s cream-colored walls,” Wilson said.
The Stevens-Crawford Heritage House is an American Foursquare house built in 1908 by Harley Stevens and his wife, Mary Elizabeth. In 1968, Mertie Stevens, the remaining family member, died leaving the house to the Clackamas County Historical Society.
In recent years, Oregon City has lost its few remaining art gallery spaces, and AiO has decided to keep arts and culture alive in Oregon City, Wilson said.
“The gallery was a natural progression from the artist residency program that AiO has implemented over the past three summers,” she said.
“We were looking for a space to share the beautiful work of our artists with the community. The Clackamas County Historical Society graciously supported us in converting what was a former office exhibit into a contemporary art space,” said Wilson said.
She added, “This transition has brought new content and audiences home.”
“When I first encountered her art, Birsa was obviously very good at depicting beautiful detail and texture through her paintings,” said Selena Jones, AiO Stevens-Crawford House Artist-in-Residence Coordinator.
Jones was grateful Birsa shared how she uses her art to dramatically explore the world she encounters.
“Viewers are transported to an immersive exhibit within the historic home that they won’t find elsewhere,” Jones said.
Explore anxiety and depression
“I’ve thought a lot over the past couple of years about indoor and outdoor spaces and the social interactions we have within them,” Birsa said, noting that she enjoys working with oil, and has recently begun to incorporate mixed media such as collage and gold leaf to his paintings.
“My paintings explore the feelings of anxiety and depression the pandemic has created in me and many others,” she said.
One of his paintings is inspired by the plants in the garden surrounding the Stevens-Crawford Heritage House.
“Experiencing outdoor spaces with friends and family, like the colorful garden outside, has become one of the few social interactions that felt safe and normal during the pandemic,” Birsa said.
She noted that AiO will be hosting “Party Party,” an artist reception for their work and an informal get-together showcasing the lineup at the Stevens-Crawford Heritage House from 2-6 p.m. on September 17.
“Faure’s works capture neighborhoods with an eye for architectural line and color. His works preserve moments of everyday life that evoke quiet calm,” Wilson said.
She added that during Faure’s time as artist-in-residence, she will have the opportunity to work in the private studio on the second floor of the Stevens-Crawford House, surrounded by artifacts from another era.
“I was drawn to her artwork because of the way she captures a place. She doesn’t choose the fanciest or grandest structures, houses, or gardens. She spends time capturing a unassuming stillness,” Wilson added.
Faure noted that making art is a solo endeavor and the process can be slow.
“Artist residencies provide time to interact with the community at an artist’s pace. It’s a beautiful space, and it’s an honor to be chosen by Art in Oregon,” Faure said.
“I like to understand a scene. If it has a complicated motif, like flowers in the grass or a telescopic perspective, I am engaged and therefore distracted from the anxiety of everyday life,” Faure said, adding that his main medium is oil paint, but she also enjoys working with acrylics and charcoal.
Old buildings and houses have always inspired her, and visiting houses is something she has done since childhood.
“Ancient architects’ choices for adding texture, utility and interest to a home are fascinating, including curved staircases, windows that squeeze into a box for more views, walk-through areas that create a large space and built-in wardrobes that carve out useful spaces,” Faure said.
She noted that the public will be able to see the results of her residency at her solo exhibition in January.
Discover the art
“Successful art is one that the viewer finds a connection to; something in which they can see part of their own history and experience,” Birsa said.
She added that she likes the sense of belonging to the gallery and the historic house.
“It’s a unique setting for art that sparks interesting conversations for me,” Birsa said, noting that her exhibition in the gallery is titled “Living Room” and features contemporary people and experiences.
“I hope gallery visitors can see something of their own experience in my paintings and consider the experiences of those who have lived in the Stephens Crawford Heritage House,” she said, adding that Art in Oregon “is a wonderful program that promotes access to and support for the arts.”
“Art in Oregon has a knack for maintaining an amazing range of art,” Faure said.
The Mary Elizabeth Gallery is “an exciting addition to Oregon City’s historic neighborhoods and beautiful vistas,” she said.
Faure added that she was looking forward “to exploring the amazing walks and restaurants during my residency”.
Support the art!
What: Art in Oregon presents “Living Room,” an exhibition of the work of Kelsey Birsa
When: 2-6 p.m. Wednesday-Friday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday, now through September 16. A special event will take place from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on September 17.
Where: The Mary Elizabeth Gallery inside the Stevens-Crawford Heritage House, 603 Sixth St., Oregon City
Details: Visit artinoregon.org to learn more about art in Oregon; visit kelseybirsa.com to learn more about Kelsey Birsa; and visit leahfaureart.com to learn more about Leah Faure.
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