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Most important rule of art: feeling good

Collage artist Susan Schenk displays 24 works at Clackamas Community College


by: PHOTO: SUSAN SCHENK - This grain elevator outside Newberg is inspiration for Susan Schenks most recent collage art, created using ingenuity, an idea and recycled scraps of paper. Wilsonville artist Susan Schenk’s only rule for creating art consists of a simple question: Does it make you happy?

The answer these days is a resounding "yes," and she has the work to prove it. Twenty-four of her newest paper collage creations are now on display at the Clackamas Community College Wilsonville annex, where they will be exhibited through February.

“It’s kind of a cross between scrapbooking and fine art,” Schenk said, describing her art, which takes the shape of birds, flowers and landscapes and also ventures into agricultural and industrial themes.

“I call it painting with paper,” she said. “These are mostly newer works, and I’ve been challenging myself to up the ante. I think these are more sophisticated, and I can’t define the level of sophistication, but they’re a little more mature and a little more fun.”

The process by which she works is almost as fascinating as the final outcome. Using recycled scraps of paper ranging from maps, astrological charts and tissue to construction paper, magazine pages and virtually anything else that she comes across, Schenk first sketches an image then fills in the various pieces using scraps of paper.

It’s an increasingly popular form of art, and Schenk now teaches regular classes at Portland shop Collage PDX and recently published a how-to article in “Cloth, Paper, Scissors,” a craft magazine.

“It’s art without any real rules,” she said. “The only rule is: Does it make you happy? And if it doesn’t make you happy then just glue some paper over it. It’s inexpensive and very forgiving and there’s no one way to do it.”

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Wilsonville artist Susan Schenk is a member of Wilsonvilles Elysium Artists and also teaches classes at a Portland studio - that is when shes not busy creating her own art. She’s fond of saying her favorite piece of art is always the last piece she’s finished. And that’s the case with this exhibit.

“I’ve just finished two grain elevators,” she said, pointing to a pair of collages hanging on the wall of the Wilsonville college annex. “I’m fascinated by grain elevators. One of these is from Mount Angel and one is from Newberg. I’ve gone really crazy on the skies with astrological star maps, I really like those. These are my most current ones and they’re kind of wild and radical. They still look like grain elevators, but I’ve pushed the edges a little bit.”

People seem to like farm buildings, she said, adding that she also takes inspiration from the work of Henk Panders, a Dutch-born painter who rose to fame as a painter in Portland. Panders’ work is now exhibited all over the world, including at the famous Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. One of his most well-known works features the New Clarissa, the oil tanker that ran aground on a rock reef near Coos Bay in 1999.

“He does a lot of oil paintings of abandoned buildings meshed with abandoned technology, especially in Oregon,” Schenk said. “He can find the beauty in something that’s really pretty tattered.”

While the college annex, located on Town Center Loop East, has held numerous art exhibits in recent years, the gallery itself has undergone an upgrade and now features a two-tier track system that allows hangers and display lights to be set at the exact spots needed to hang and illuminate different pieces of art. Both the lights and hanging wires can be moved to accommodate differently sized works, while the lights are daylight balanced in color to ensure more accurate color representation.

by: PHOTO: SUSAN SCHENK - Birds' nests are a favorite collage subject for Wilsonville artist Susan Schenk, who said she gets more requests to explain this type of image than any other. Schenk saw her work featured in Wilsonville last year as part of “The Powerhouse Project,” a collaboration between Portland General Electric and the Estacada Arts Commission. Featuring photography, painting, collage and other art centered on PGE’s North Fork Clackamas River dam and powerhouse, that show remains on display through April at the Clackamas County Development Services Building. It will move to PGE headquarters in downtown Portland later that month before returning to the Wilsonville CCC annex in June.

Meanwhile, Schenk plans to hold a collage night, yet to be scheduled, in Wilsonville to help celebrate her most recent work. It will resemble the classes she already holds, and will allow those interested to experience her workflow firsthand.

“I’ve done this before with adults, and once they get into it, it can really be a lot of fun,” she said.

Web: susanschenk.com.




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