New art is on display at Clackamas Community Colleges Wilsonville campus

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Estacada artist Nina Bradford was inspired to create The Ballad of Cate Parks after spending time in Vancouver, B.C. The shows namesake can be seen in the large portrait behind Bradford. The Wilsonville campus of Clackamas Community College is rapidly becoming known for its exhibitions by metro area artists.

The summer showing of “Clackamas: The Powerhouse Project” featured artists from all over the region, including Wilsonville’s Susan Schenk. The show was part of an ongoing, multi-year exploration of the Clackamas River and its numerous historical dams and power stations.

Estacada artist Nina Bradford and her work are a part of the "Powerhouse Project." Now, Bradford, who works in a number of different media to create vivid, visual stories, will be displaying a new batch of work in Wilsonville she is calling “The Ballad of Cate Parks.”

From now through Dec. 5, Bradford’s 17-piece exhibit is hanging in the main hall at the college’s Wilsonville annex, located at 29353 SW Town Center Loop East. There is no admission to view the art, just the expenditure of time involved in absorbing what Bradford calls a classic story of love and loss.

“I like to experiment with my art, I like to get an idea and explore the possibilities,” she said.

The 17 pieces she created for “Ballad” span the gamut from oil and acrylic painting to collage and photography. Virtually any type of display will do, it seems, so long as it conveys the message Bradford is trying to get across.

“It’s not always this style of work,” she said, glancing around the college’s expansive, two-story foyer. “For example, in Southern California I started photographing yucca plants, and from a photo I took I did 35 different paintings of the yucca.”

Since the image remained the same, she simply explored different styles of painting, different colors and palettes and various compositions.

“I wanted to see how many ways I could portray the same image,” she said.

It’s been that way for years. Bradford grew up around art and earned a degree in fine art from the University of Oregon to go along with an associate degree in film and television production from Lane Community College.

That background led her into the filmmaking world alongside her husband. But she eventually found her calling outside the world of moving pictures.

“I had been thinking of a way to meld those passions, theater and art, the theater being storytelling,” she said. “So I thought I’d try this story, and I just started making it and one piece led to the next piece.”

Inspired by Vancouver

Inspiration for “The Ballad of Cate Parks” follows exactly that pattern. The idea came from the time she spent in Vancouver, B.C., while her husband, a creator of movie sets for large Hollywood productions, was working there.

“I was up visiting and staying up there for a few months, and I’d walk my dog in Cate’s Park every day, which is along the Burrard Inlet into (Vancouver) Bay,” she said. “And I just got this idea for this story, it just started coming into my imagination. It was just kind of an idea about this girl in the late 1800s; it’s a love story.”

The show is displayed in chronological order, meaning pieces are arranged in the order they were created. Starting with an eponymous oil portrait of Cate Parks herself, the story it tells describes the excruciating wait endured by the mothers, wives and sisters of men called away to serve on the high seas. Ultimately, Cate receives the bad news she has been dreading: Her man has disappeared along with his crew and is presumed dead.

“Suddenly He Was Called Away to Sea” is one example of her multi-talented approach. This piece forms a triptych of nine squares made of scratchboard. They are each covered with ink, while a needle was used to draw a variety of sea-themed images. There is a sailor’s knot, trees, a dancing woman and an image from famous Canadian artist Emily Carr, whose influence plays heavily in “Ballad.”

Another of Bradford’s unique works is “He Was Her Valentine.” It features an elaborate mosaic of sea shells that form a larger image. Another collage features a map of Burrard Inlet, a letter opener and even a pair of small picture frames as “eyes.”

Now, the public can use it’s own eyes to judge whether or not “The Ballad of Cate Parks” hits its mark.

“It’s funny how you get an idea and it takes you places that you never thought would happen,” Bradford said.

For more information on Bradford's work, visit:

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