Although Christopher Shotola-Hardt and Janice Yang's paths never crossed at Wilsonville High School, the former art teacher and his successor will collaborate at the Blackfish Gallery's upcoming show starting Nov. 2.
Earlier this summer, Yang submitted her portfolio for consideration at the Blackfish Gallery in Portland. During her final interview, she was introduced to Shotola-Hardt, who recently had retired after 32 years as the high school's art educator.
After being accepted as a Blackfish artist, Shotola-Hardt, a veteran "Blackfisher," jumped at the opportunity to be Yang's mentor at the gallery, and the two work alongside each other in artist talks and as members of the gallery's public relations committee.
"Christopher has been really helpful; not only the fact that he's been a member for a really long time … but because he was a senior teacher where I teach, he gives me a lot of advice on good strategies to help some of my students," Yang said.
She said that often when you replace a teacher, you don't get the chance to talk with them and bounce ideas off each other. But as they join forces at the gallery, they can.
"Christopher and I have such a good relationship as a gallery member. Even though he's not here at the school, he still gets to hear about the students who he taught and he's very supportive," she said.
Although the two artists will share the gallery space, they will have solo shows.
Shotola-Hardt's show focuses on the environment and humans' relationship with the planet. As an avid bird watcher and enthusiast, he uses the bird as a way to represent climate change and stir emotion in gallery visitors.
"I am using birds as a metaphor to talk about my concerns for the environment, health and stewardship of our planet. The challenges we face with climate change are becoming quite prevalent," he said.
Yang will share the space with Indigenous artist Don Bailey, who also draws inspiration from his culture. Yang's show will debut paintings of herself, as well as some of her students. As a South Korean immigrant, Yang uses portraits to pull themes of identity and belonging in the context of people who, like her, are caught between two cultures.
"This is sort of my way of expressing my appreciation and honoring my relationship with my students," she said.
Shotola-Hardt said pulling inspiration from students is common in art teachers' work, and a lot of his previous art started as inspiration from his students' classwork.
"When somebody looks at my painting, it's not just some random painting — that's my soul and that's who I am … and so with Janice its powerful for students to have teachers who work alongside them," he said.
The art show will open Nov. 2, and the public reception will take place from 6-9 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 4. However, community members can view the show up until Nov. 27.
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