The Oregon Coast Council for the Arts is delighted to present works by Tillamook County artist Kathleen Kanas in the Oregon Coast Visual Artists Showcase (COVAS) at the Newport Visual Arts Center. Kanas includes traditional and organic basketry in her exhibit, “Natural Fiber,” and is featured in an artist video documenting her work and process. She will discuss her work during the gallery reception at 5:30 p.m. on January 9.
Kathleen Kanas has been plying, plaiting and coiling natural fibers for over 50 years. Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, she spent memorable times in the Pacific Northwest outdoors. These experiences developed her explorative nature, allowing use of a variety of materials that resulted in an array of styles. Mostly self-taught, Kanas has taken workshops from well-known traditional Lummi weavers such as Frances James, Bruce Miller and Anna Jefferson, as well as Margaret Matthewson.
Kanas has resided in Manzanita, Oregon, throughout her 25 years in elementary education, and she has devoted her extra time to discovering new materials and techniques that make her baskets special. From early arts and crafts fairs to eventually opening and operating the 4th Street Studio and Gallery in Manzanita, OR, Kanas continues to highlight the beauty and versatility of natural fibers found in our lives.
From spring through October Kanas builds up her supply of materials. Near her home landscape she harvests akibia and wisteria vines, New Zealand flax and dracenae leaves, and neighbors have helped by dropping off pruned Manzanita branches. When the winds are westerly, a walk on Manzanita Beach can result in a batch of bull kelp or an interesting piece of driftwood that can be incorporated into her designs. At low tide, nearby Nehalem Bay also offers up spruce or cedar roots that have made it downstream. Having traveled south and east in Oregon, she has collected western red cedar bark wild cherry bark, and bear grass in the Cascade Mountains’ foothills; willow, cattail and tule along the Blitzen River; and Ponderosa pine needles near Bend.
Much of what Kanas collects requires a cleansing wash to remove dirt and critters, a wipe-down and drying-out period; she then sorts, and bundles or coils the material into manageable amounts and stores them until needed.
When ready to weave, the plant fibers need to become pliable again by soaking or moistening, the difference being in the density of the fiber.
Kanas’ most favored weaving material is western red cedar, a valuable resource to the Northwest Indians which was preeminent among the flora of the region for its variety of cultural uses. The tree’s Latin name means “tree of life,” which is appropriate for its significance in the lives of the people.
Awards and recognition have followed Kanas and her basketry. In 2009, she was a featured artist on Oregon Public Broadcastings’ “Art Beat.” In 1988, she was included in “Basic Weave,” a juried national exhibition in Athens, Ohio. She has regularly shown in juried exhibitions such as the Beaverton Arts Showcase and the “Celebration of Creativity” exhibit, also located in Beaverton, Oregon. In 1986, she received the first place, mixed media award in the Kenai Art Guild’s 20th Annual Juried Art Show in Kenai, Alaska.
Moving forward, Kathleen Kanas has ideas for further expanding the scope and variety of her work, with future pieces combining elements into wall sculptures, using collage techniques, as well as developing mask designs and construction.
The COVAS showcase is open Tuesday – Saturday, noon to 4pm.