“Gourd Play” Exhibition Opens in Coastal Oregon Visual Artists Showcase
Newport artist Louise Hemphill represents Lincoln County
The Oregon Coast Council for the Arts presents “Gourd Play,” an exhibition by Newport-based artist Louise Hemphill, from December 7 to January 25, in the Coastal Oregon Visual Artist Showcase (COVAS) at the Newport Visual Arts Center. Hemphill will present her decorative and functional gourd artwork, representing Lincoln County in the COVAS Showcase. An opening reception for “Gourd Play” will be held on Saturday, December 7, 2-5pm, at the VAC, with an artist talk beginning at 4pm.
“For me, gourds are a source of constant inspiration and artistic fulfillment,” says Louise Hemphill. “The joyful play is in watching the gourd evolve and emerge in my hands from something plain to a beautiful work of art.”
Hemphill begins by carefully preparing the gourd – washing, scrubbing and cleaning it inside and out. After it dries and its natural colors are exposed, she sits with the prepared gourd in “meditation” until it speaks to her and the “play” begins! “Sometimes the gourd calls me to weave threads into its already interesting surface, adding beads or shells or precious stones for further ornamentation,” she says. “Other times, I paint designs onto its surface – Indian motifs and tribal patterns in turquoise and other vibrant colors, or floral designs or flowing shapes. Sometimes the pulse of the ocean comes through and wavelike designs emerge or I cut into the gourd and change its shape, creating more contrast.”
A native Oregonian and long-time Nye Beach resident, Hemphill’s first career was that as an elementary school in Newport for over 30 years. She’d always been drawn to art but never had the time to fully explore the possibilities of creative expression until she retired in 1997. She apprenticed with potter Richard Cabral and studied watercolor with Joyce Gaffin. Having grown up in Eastern Oregon with an affinity for the outdoors, in the early 2000s she began experimenting with wood and wood carving. She became fascinated with the images that emerged as she whittled, and then in 2016 in Peoria, Oregon, she discovered gourds.
Gourd decoration is an ancient tradition in Africa and Asia as well as among the indigenous peoples of the Americas, notably the central highland people of Peru, and the indigenous nations of the American Southwest and British Columbia. A variety of gourd shapes and sizes yields an array of art pieces, including ornaments, bowls, sculpture, vases, and wall art such as masks. Artistic styles can range from craft to fine art.
The COVAS Showcase is open noon to 4pm, Tuesday-Saturday.