PORT ORFORD —“Finding My Voice with Words & Pictures," a show of 13 new sculptures by Port Orford artist Janet Pretti, plus a new book designed and written by the artist, will be on display at the Hawthorne Gallery starting Saturday, July 25, and continuing through the end of 2020.
The public is invited to a reception which is part of the general Port Orford Art Walk (with masks and social distancing) that afternoon from 2-6 p.m. The Hawthorne Gallery is located at 517 Jefferson St., on U.S. Highway 101 right next to Battle Rock, adjacent to the Hawthorne’s Redfish Restaurant.
As befits an educator — Pretti recently retired from her role of Dean of the Curry Campus of Southwestern Oregon Community College in Brookings where she helped coordinate the construction of a 25,000 square-foort facility in Brookings, organize the yearly writing conference in Gold Beach, and oversee the entire teaching program — she has fashioned a beautifully written and illustrated book which illuminates the process whereby she spent the last five years bringing these 13 sculptures to life in bronze, wood, found objects and painted words.
I recently went down to visit Pretti’s studio in the basement of the home on Garrison Lake in Port Orford, which she has shared for 32 years with her husband Lonnie Pretti, a retired commercial fisherman whom she describes in her book as having enriched her life with “at least one good bellylaugh a day.” While in her studio, I discovered that the figure in “Finding My Voice” is removable, and when I removed it I was able to see more clearly the 33 steps involved in creating a Janet Pretti sculpture.
Here it is. How to make a Janet Pretti sculpture, the steps:
1. Start at the center, the core of your being, and decide what Question you wish to address. Then spiral outward. 2. Name it. 3. Wonder. 4. Ask why 5. Imagine 6. Research. 7. Write 8. Explore possibilities 9.Narrow the focus 10. Os it worth pursuing? 11. Write 12. Connect the dots .... 13. Learn 14. AHA! 15. Unravel the contradictions 16. Dig deeper 17. Write 18. Cull (all this is PRIOR to the actual physical creation of the sculpture. Sometimes this takes YEARS! Now the sculpting begins:) 19. Act 20. Bend wire 21. Add wax 22. Mouth or no mouth? 23. Cast 24. Chase and patina 25. Write 26. What are the arms doing? 27. Laminate and carve 28. Write 29. Where are they? (the bronze torsos and wooden arms of the figures are complete. The players are ready to strut and fret their hour upon the stage. What is the stageset? What is the play?) 30. Base (the stage is set, with backdrops and props) 31. Paint 32. Final adjustments 33. (note that this word is turned OUTWARD, towards US, the public. This is what Pretti thinks of as the POLITICAL aspect of her art): Share.
Some of the questions Pretti has set herself in these 13 new works include "What Have we Done?" which explores the state of politics in our country at this time, our use of misinformation and racism to promote political agendas (a very prescient piece considering it was begun in 2016); "Puberty" (an exploration of how advertising affects the body image of young women); "The Future" (about climate change; the accompanying essay in the book quotes Greta Thunberg’s address to the United Nations); "Cages" (what kinds of PTSD do we create when we separate very young childen from their parents?; and "The Blame Game" (a trenchant comment on the finger-pointing that has such divisive effects upon endeavors ranging from running a community college to running a country.
Pretti’s willingness to “dig deeper," “wonder." “imagine” and “write” about the questions that enliven her work stem from her conviction that we are moving from the “Age of Information” (engendered by the marvelous possibilities offered by Dr. Google who has brought the world to our fingertips) to what she likes to call "The Age of Meaning."
When I went down to her studio and then spent several days carefully reading her wonderful little book, I felt like it was the most meaningful art exhibit I had encountered in our neck of the woods in a long time, and wanted to share it with all of you. And not all the news is grim. Pretti’s "Aging in Place" is a very dear testimony to matrimony, and her "Joy" celebrates her passionate commitment to education, and her delight in having been able to assist the Curry Campus of Southwestern Oregon Community College.
On the page about "Joy" Pretti writes:
"One day, on the way to work, I drove by a family parked at an overlook, just as a child leaped into the air, shouting and pointing. I knew without a doubt that she had seen a whale spouting for the first time. The day before a campus project had had a major setback. It was the split second image of her pure joy, discovery and wonder that inspired me to forge ahead through all the construction issues and the unexpected conflicts and chaos that its transformative change brought after opening. For the next five years I felt a rush of joy every time I rounded the corner into the parking lot and saw the campus ahead. As I prepared for retirement, I wanted a reminder of that improbable journey."
In this difficult and troubled year, here is a show to lift your spirits. It will be there through December. I hope many of you get down to see it!