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Diana Crites' dolls and paintings capture eyes, hearts of art enthusiasts



STAFF PHOTOS: VERN UYETAKE  - Diana Crites poses with some of the dolls she has created.

The careers of many regional and local artists have been launched from Lake Oswego’s annual Festival of the Arts.

The event attracts talented artists and art vendors eager to share their art with the thousands of art enthusiasts who attend the three-day festival.

Among the artists showing art in George Rogers Park’s juried art vendor gallery this June was West Linn artist Diana Crites of Woebegone Art, who presented her intriguing dolls and compelling paintings at the festival for the first time.

“I’m one of those people who avoids the things that cause the most pain,” Crites wrote in a blog prior to the festival opening. “I’m not talking about physical pain, really; I am covered with tattoos and have a high threshold. I’m referring to avoiding the spiritual anguish of being vulnerable, going well outside one’s comfort zone, putting oneself in the spotlight.”

Crites’ worries were unfounded; her art was robustly received by festival goers.

“It was transformational for me to have such great reception at the Festival of the Arts,” she said. “That my dolls would reach their hearts made me feel so good.”

Each doll takes about 10 days to two weeks to complete. Crites even makes much of the clothing she dresses the dolls in.

Crites describes her style thus:

“If you are drawn toward art which is symbolic, dreamy and luminous in a dark and delightful way, then have you come to the right place,” she writes on her website. “My work has been described as ‘where Lovecraft meets Poe,’ ‘a delightful trip through the looking glass’ and ‘something from another world.’ I handcraft each piece with obsessive detail from the inside out, because my art is my passion.”

She started making the dolls about 11 years ago. Each doll takes 10 days to two weeks to complete. Her painting- and doll-making processes can be broken into short sessions, which accommodate her busy life. She says she spends the first half of the day painting and the second half working on dolls, and, in between, fits in caring for her three active sons, three dogs and household tasks.

With simple wood blocks and padding, she creates the detailed dolls that are delightful mashups of animal and human characteristics. The heads are made of wood knobs onto which she sculpts polymer clay to create just the right facial features before painting.

“I love to make oversize ears,” she said. “I feel a lot like Geppetto.”

Each doll then gets dressed in clothing Crites either makes herself or purchases from American Girl collections. The dolls are delightfully unique art pieces.

Crites said her mother finds her work dark and forlorn, hence the studio name Woebegone Art. Some people might find the dolls and images of her paintings to be dark, but many more find them to be somber and calming, and are intrigued by the images.

“In my paintings, I try to capture the scenes that get caught in my head in part, so that I can better understand what I’m seeing,” she said.

Crites has been commissioned to create remembrance portraits of pets and heirloom dolls of new babies.

“Painting remembrance portraits is one of the most gratifying project I can work on,” she said. “I have a passion for creating art with the purpose to make others feel connected.”

The Festival of the Arts was a successful show for Crites; she sold many art pieces and made a few commission sales.

“It was incredibly successful and absolutely worthwhile endeavor,” she said. “I am very proud of myself for fulfilling a long-held dream, standing with my art well outside of my comfort zone, and interacting freely with everyone. It was exhausting but well, well worth it.”

What’s next? Crites would like to incorporate robots into her dolls. You might just see that next year at the Festival of the Arts.

To learn more about Crites and her art, visit Woebegoneart.com.

Contact Barb Randall at 503-636-1281 ext. 100 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The doll heads are made of wood knobs, which Crites covers with a moldable material to form the human-like features. She especially likes to make oversize ears.

Crites goes to great lengths to make the dolls features as lifelike as possible.

Crites is working on making a sloth doll, a commissioned project from the Festival of the Arts.

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