In 2016 my good friend, Kaaren Pixton came to me to ask me to collaborate on a public art piece that we could donate to a local shelter. Kaaren loves serving in her church and she loves collaborative projects that include a lot of people.
Kaaren found a shelter for domestic abuse victims that wanted to work with us on an outdoor installation that could be used as a privacy screen. Together we designed these mural walls.
The shelter loved it and they even blogged about us.
To Kaaren’s delight, we were able to involve over 70 women in the painting of these pieces. Each block of wood was painted by a different person or group of women. We loved how that adds to the meaning of a piece given to women in need.
In 2017 we made these underwater Coral reef scenes with “beautiful fishes and other inhabitants of that world.” (Kaaren’s words) The creatures were all created by women of the LDS faith that gathered to share their time and skills.
(Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of the shelter they went to.)
In 2018, we made two meadow scenes and a butterfly collage. We hung the collage in a stairwell at the Raphael house. When we first visited the establishment, I was confused when we walked in. I was not sure if we had entered the right place and did not know where to go. I knew at once, that we needed to give them something for their entry that would ward off that feeling of discomfort and unknown and give a sense of belonging and place. These flower murals and butterfly mobile do just that.
The butterflies were so fun to make for the mobile that we helped dozens of girls make them at girls camp. They were installed at the New avenues for youth
Kaaren grew up going to a boarding school in England. From her stories it was largely void of beauty and art. As we were visiting the Raffael house, and explaining to the program director why we wanted to do this project, Kaaren recounted a story from her boarding school days she had not remembered until that very moment. As a young girl she had gone to the infirmary and as she sat there suffering, she looked up and saw hung up high in the lofted room, a large painting of a beautiful flower. She learned that it had been donated by a local artist. It filled her little heart with love and hope. A seed was planted in her heart that day. That little seed has grown into bursting abundance.
Karen has worked as an artist in residence for schools all over the Portland area helping children make art. She has created between 110 and 120 public art installations. I have been so blessed to have had the privilege to learn from her create with her!
Kaaren’s work doesn’t end here in Portland. Her collage and murals have landed a spot all the way in Kenya, Africa, where she continues to help children both here and on the other side of the world experience the joy and wonder of creating something beautiful.
In 2018, Kaaren, Shanon and Melody turn the art from Magale students into a mural for River Grove Elementary in Kenya, Africa.
Two worlds bridged through Art
For our 2019 Mural, Kaaren and I went together to the Gateway Center and chose a location to place the artwork and began brainstorming ideas for the subject matter. Five days later, before Kaaren and I had a chance to reconvene, Kaaren suffered a stroke.
I designed this piece of artwork in her honor. Kaaren is unfailingly optimistic and she never ceases to find the beauty in every situation. Karen had hard times in her childhood, and not always an easy life, but when you hear her speak of her life, it is with delight and joy. Her quick laugh always reminds you to be in the present and to be full of love. She often says, “love is the answer, what is the question”. Karen and I had discussed making some sort of beautiful vista with a foreground with lots of flowers of some kind. I wanted to make this painting a portrait of her, to honor her, but since the stroke she has lost the ability to stand and it was a lot easier to get her beautiful daughter Courtney out in her gorgeous yard for a photo shoot for photo reference. Courtney has brain cancer. She faces an unknown future of pain and undeserved suffering. And now she faces it without her mother’s help. It suddenly seemed right to celebrate Courtney, her beautiful life, her beautiful hair, and Karen, and unknown futures, and positive attitudes all in one painting. And then my dear friend Missy Mcconkie suggested a poem to be used in conjunction with the painting.
This is a picture of the Gateway Center
And here is the final piece. It was lovingly created by over 70 women. Each woman at the event painted a quilt square for the border and a piece of patterned paper to be cut into the pieces of the dress. Shanon Edwards, Sierra Able, Jennianne Workman and Bonnie Traylor Talbot all donated many hours of cutting, gluing and painting to help this come together. Thank you all!