Sunday, March 31, 2013

Ice cap on Wallowa Lake

Wallowa Lake has been a hardcase for a good long stretch this winter, but the temperature of the water isn't all that much different than when you go swimming in August.

It's been doing that thing where the ice shifts or cracks and it sounds like Star Wars weapons.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Out of the ashes, into my Arment art collection

And Furthermore column, Wallowa County Chieftain. March 6, 2013

Steve Arment’s art collection and my art collection are similar in some ways. We’ve both gathered paintings and sculpture over the years. Arment recruits art that he likes, either because it’s easy on the eyes or has a good story. Same here. But Steve’s collection includes stuff by a whole bunch of people. Mine is mostly by one guy. Steve Arment. Another way our collections are different is that mine got started by pulling things out of a burnpile. 

When I first got to know Steve he was moving his studio from the old cheese factory on Hurricane Creek. He had a heap of things to clear out. Mostly wood scraps and lumber ends. But there were also abandoned or not-quite finished wood carvings. Fragments of carousel animal anatomy. A three-foot long plywood carrot. Unpainted kingfishers and songbirds. Stencils for a giraffe head and other exotic creatures. Pretty much a Noah’s Ark of the animal and vegetable kingdoms rendered in wood. Steve was planning to haul these to the dump. I have a burnpile that’s closer and offered its services. He took me up on it, thankfully, and once I saw what he was throwing away I started pulling out the good stuff. So began my art collection.

The plywood carrot got screwed to the side of my storage shed. Why? I don’t know. What else do you do with a plywood carrot? It makes a dandy landmark. I once saw someone on my property and went to see why. It was a photographer. He was shooting senior pictures and the student wanted a photo by the carrot with the mountains in the background. That’s why you hang a plywood carrot on your shed. Because it’s art.

You’ve seen Steve Arment’s artwork if you’ve been inside Wallowa County. The Blue Banana. Lear’s. Bookloft. TG. Gypsy Java. Old Town CafĂ©. Mutiny. Calderas. ToZion. 1917 Lumber. That list is just getting warmed up. The man carves so much wood that on more than a few occasions I’ve entered a place of business, noticed a dusting of wood shavings on the floor and asked, “Steve just here?” and the answer was always yes. It makes me feel like a tracker when that happens.

So it makes sense that a busy artist has been busy collecting art. Go see the exhibit, if you haven’t already, of artwork by other folks that Steve likes. It’s on display through March 24 at the freshly-squeezed Josephy Center for Arts and Culture in Joseph. That’s the old Community Bank building next to Sports Corral. Good things are happening there. Go in and take a gander. Say hi to Rich upstairs in the spiffy new home of the Alvin Josephy Library. And give Mike Koloski a high-five for doing such nice work with the art exhibits.

He actually carved that tuxedo.
Walk around those paintings and sculptures from the Arment collection. The artwork is worth seeing for its own sake, but I also think it’s interesting to see what Steve thinks is interesting. Nobody does exactly what Steve does. I’m not even sure what it is exactly that he’s doing, but nobody does it better. If you’re not familiar with his work, let me describe real quick one of the things he’s made and you’ll get the idea. He made a children’s toy that I guess would be called a rocking horse, except it’s a pig, with wings, painted with zebra stripes. Not something you just order out of a catalogue, you know?   

Looking around my living room at the art by Arment I’ve managed to collect, I see an Egyptian scarab beetle with a four-foot wingspan. Two giant codfish heads holding a stick between their mouths. They used to support pots and pans in Steve’s kitchen but now reside near my woodstove. I hang my waders there after fishing. There’s a set of butterfly shelves. A painting of a castle. Another of a heron. A little carved dinosaur with a broken leg. And this is just stuff Steve was going to throw away or didn’t have room for anymore.

I should really get Koloski over here to curate my collection. Until then, go see the exhibit at the Josephy Center. None of it came out of a burnpile, but it’s still pretty impressive.

Jon Rombach is a local columnist for the Chieftain.