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Leah Faure, current Art in Oregon artist in residence, also on display at historic residence.

Art is alive and thriving in Oregon City, with Kelsey Birsa's paintings on view from now through Sept. 17, in the Mary Elizabeth Gallery inside the historic Stevens-Crawford House.PMG PHOTO: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Stevens-Crawford Heritage House docent Lindsey Fischer works next to 'Coping Mechanisms,' by Kelsey Birsa, a 63-inch x 57-inch oil painting with collage, wood, gold leaf and a blanket attached to one corner.

In addition, Leah Faure, the August artist in residence, has paintings hanging in the studio space there and plans to show pieces in progress throughout the month.

Both women support Art in Oregon's goal to "build and sustain art patronage through pride in Oregon artists and pride in art ownership," noted AiO co-founder Tammy Jo Wilson, an Oregon City resident.

Established in 2017, Art in Oregon is a statewide, visual-arts focused nonprofit, working to build bridges between artists and communities.

The mission of the organization is to establish collaborative relationships with the common goal of increased visibility and access to art for all people.

PHOTO COURTESY: LEAH FAURE - This painting of Portland's Broadway Bridge displays Leah Faure's penchant for simple things and moody patterns held together by concrete.

Mary Elizabeth Gallery

The Mary Elizabeth Gallery "is not your average white box gallery. Artwork hangs from the original wooden picture rails that line the cream-colored walls of the house," Wilson said.

The Stevens-Crawford Heritage House is an American Foursquare home built in 1908 by Harley Stevens and his wife, Mary Elizabeth. In 1968, Mertie Stevens, the remaining family member, passed away leaving the home to the Clackamas County Historical Society.

In recent years, Oregon City has lost its few other art gallery spaces, and AiO decided to keep arts and culture alive in Oregon City, Wilson said.

"The gallery was a natural progression of the Artist Residency Program AiO has run for the past three summers," she said.

"We were looking for a space to share the beautiful work of our artists with the community. Clackamas County Historical Society graciously supported us in converting what was an old-time office exhibition into a contemporary art space," Wilson said.

She added, "This transition has brought fresh content and new audiences to the house."

"When I first encountered her art, Birsa was obviously very skilled at depicting beautiful detail and textures through her paintings," said Selena Jones, the AiO Stevens-Crawford House Artist-in-Residency coordinator.

Jones was grateful that Birsa is sharing how she uses her art to dramatically explore the world she encounters.

"Viewers are transported into an immersive exhibition within the historic home they will not find elsewhere," Jones said.

Exploring anxiety and depression

"I have been thinking a lot over the past two years about indoor and outdoor spaces as well as the social interactions we have in them," Birsa said, noting that she loves working with oil, and recently began incorporating mixed media such as collage and gold leaf to her paintings.

"My paintings explore the feelings of anxiety and depression that the pandemic has created in myself and many others," she said.

One of her paintings was inspired by plants from the garden surrounding the Stevens-Crawford Heritage House.

"Experiencing outdoor spaces with friends and family, such as 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 host "Party Party," an artist reception for her work and an informal get together showcasing programming at the Stevens-Crawford Heritage House from 2-6 p.m. on Sept. 17.

Leah Faure

"Faure's artwork captures neighborhoods with an eye for architectural line and color. Her artwork preserves moments of everyday life that evoke a 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 second floor studio in the Stevens-Crawford House, surrounded by the artifacts of another era.

"I was drawn to her artwork because of how she captures a place. She doesn't choose the fanciest or biggest structures, homes or gardens. She spends time capturing unassuming stillness," Wilson added.

Inspirations

Faure noted that making art is a solo endeavor and the process can be slow.

"Artist residencies give time to interact with the community at an artist's pace. It is a beautiful space, and it is an honor to be chosen by Art in Oregon," Faure said.

"I like figuring out a scene. If it has complicated pattern, like flowers in the grass or telescoping perspective, I am engaged and therefore distracted from the anxiety of everyday life," Faure said, adding that her primary medium is oil paint, but she also enjoys working with acrylic and charcoal.

Old buildings and houses have always inspired her, and touring houses is something she has done since childhood.

"The choices of past architects to add texture, utility and interest to a home is fascinating, including curved stairs, windows that press out to a box for more views, walk-through areas that create one big space and built-out cabinets that dig out useful spaces," Faure said.

She noted that the public will be able to see the results of her residency during her solo show in January.

PMG PHOTO: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - In the exhibit currently on display within the Mary Elizabeth Gallery, Kelsey Birsa 'expertly explores and celebrates the impact of domestic spaces as a fine art exhibition environment, and the results are stunning,' said Selena Jones, the Stevens-Crawford House artist-in-residency coordinator

Experience art

"Successful art is one that the viewer finds a connection with; something that they can see part of their own story and experience in," Birsa said.

She added that she loves the sense of home in the gallery and in the historic house.

"It is a unique setting for art that sparks some interesting conversations for me,' Birsa said, noting that her show in the gallery is entitled "Living Room," and features contemporary people and experiences.

"Hopefully, visitors to the gallery can see something of their own experience in my paintings and consider the experiences of those who lived in the Stephens Crawford Heritage House," she said, adding that Art in Oregon "is a wonderful program that promotes access and support for art."

"Art in Oregon has a talent for curating an amazing range of art," Faure said.

The Mary Elizabeth Gallery is "an exciting addition to the historic neighborhoods and beautiful views of Oregon City," she said.

Faure added that she is looking forward to "exploring the walks and amazing restaurants during my residency."

Support the arts!

What: Art in Oregon presents "Living Room," an exhibit of the work of Kelsey Birsa

When: 2-6 p.m. Wednesday-Friday and 1-5 p.m. on Sunday, now through Sept. 16. A special event will take place from 2-6 p.m. on Sept. 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 see more about Kelsey Birsa; and visit leahfaureart.com to learn more about Leah Faure.


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