Normally, a trinket tells very little. It lies nearly invisible as the masses trample over it or brush past its worthlessness. A trinket can be anything—an old shoe, a leaf or a family portrait found in a thrift store, and the only common thread being that it’s been discarded.
A tribute to the west
Normally, a trinket tells very little. It lies nearly invisible as the masses trample over it or brush past its worthlessness. A trinket can be anything—an old shoe, a leaf or a family portrait found in a thrift store, and the only common thread being that it’s been discarded. Among the bevy of artists within Portland is a pair of trinket collectors and craft makers that are on a mission to tell the story of the West by using artifacts collected and made by only the simplest means possible.
Nicole Lavelle and Sarah Baugh’s collaboration is properly titled West. It is among only a small handful of exhibitions to be hosted by a relatively new art space on North Mississippi called Land. Land had its start in October 2009, with big-name Pacific Northwest artists like Nikki McClure and Trish Grantham filling the upstairs exhibition room with their newest work. The owners of online art store www.buyolympia.com opened up the gallery and retail store after their move from Olympia, Wash., to Portland. The gallery has seemingly gotten off to a great start, temporarily housing the work of both well-known artists and those just emerging onto the Portland art scene.
West is rugged from the start, as an old wooden plank with an arrow points you up the stairs to the exhibition room. Wood is in heavy use, nailed to the wall in random order or used to dangle a drawing created on unbleached paper. Nature is everywhere, whether as pinecones, pebbles or leaves, the influence of the forest is there.
Lavelle and Baugh are seniors at Portland State studying graphic design. Both hail from the West but were born outside of Oregon.
“When we came together to plan the show, we were trying to think of a topic or starting point that interested both of us and allowed enough freedom within it to work in whatever mediums or manners we wished,” Lavelle said.
Lavelle and Baugh shared interests in things such as the natural world, exploring, folk art, collecting and their own personal mythologies.
“It just so happened that all of those things related intensely to the locales in which we grew up and explored as children and now as adults,” Lavelle said. “Many of those places were right here in the West.”
The collaged walls are reminiscent of childhood as well as a tribute to a lifestyle and the adventurous spirit in all of us. Part dedication and part soul searching, the artifacts remind you of the place that was and the place that is. From arrowheads to penny stamps, these are memorabilia of a life lived. Four words penciled in graphing paper, “Dusty Sunburn, Piney Summer,” seem to capture an entire season.
Lavelle describes the exhibit as a way of documenting and exploring their thoughts and feelings about the West both as a destination and an arrival. Remaining true to the Western spirit, the items feel old and dusty, and yet hauntingly familiar at the same time. Whether you’re from the west or a new arrival, West will remind you of the journey made or the life lived in this place that we call home.