Happy 2016: Here’s a Great Beginning

Beginning January 7, 2016, I will have my first solo exhibit since 2012. The exhibit is at the Art Haus in Milepost5, the art community and residential apartment complex off 82nd Ave. Art Haus can be accessed between 81st and 82nd on Oregon St. The exhibit will run January 7 through February 8, 2016.

When James Halvorson of Art Haus at Milepost 5 dropped by my studio¬†and, on¬†seeing my big abstracts, asked if I’d like an exhibit — well, shucks, what could I say? Here¬†are some photos of the exhibit before it opened. And below are a couple of personal photos taken in the studio:

Full studioMy full studio, before delivering art to Art Haus. Below, the empty studio.

empty studio

The paintings, or those not purchased, will be delivered back home in February. In the meantime, I can bask in the thought of them hanging for all to see.

I was pleased by James’ generous offer. It had been some time since I had had a solo exhibit.¬†I moved into my new studio mid-year 2014, and with its generous proportions it enticed me¬†into making large abstract paintings; a workshop with Bill Park was a¬†further incentive. One of the first of these large abstracts (which sneaks toward abstraction but not without having a bit of figurative work in it), started in Bill’s¬†Painting Intensive. It¬†is called The Green Green Grass of Home:

GreenGreenGrassofHome2015WLGreen Green Grass, 54.5 x 54 inches, is mostly acrylic on canvas and was finished in 2015. The title is personal, but I think the painting transcends its label. However, I must report that someone who grew up in the same countryside as I did found the title instantly meaningful. But you can name it anything you like:-).

The last painting in this series was named just this morning by Jer. It’s current title is “Gone” although in the exhibit it’s called Untitled (2016 Number One).

112016NumberOne30x40WLGone (Untitled [2016 Number One]), 48 x 60 inches, oil on canvas, 2016

Titles, like abstract paintings themselves, come slowly to me. I’m always reluctant to taint the viewers’ perceptions by insisting they see what I saw; sometimes I can’t claim to have any idea what I saw at all, although any painting I put on exhibit is a painting I feel is complete and satisfying. And so, the painting below also escaped having a meaningful title:


Mixed Media, 2015, 68 x 58 inches, mixed media on canvas, 2015.

Three of the canvases in this exhibit¬†are 4 feet by 5 feet (48 x 60 inches). This is no coincidence. I am recycling a¬†7-canvas panorama (total 28 feet)¬†that was done in 2009. The painted canvases are fine underlayments for the newer paintings, and I’ve saved one of them, mostly for nostalgia’s sake. I love the notion that each canvas holds a lot of history, even if that history is obvious only to me.

04UntitledBlueSpacetwentyFifteen48x60WLUntitled (Blue Space, 2015), 48 x 60 inches, oil on canvas, 2015

05UntitledFormationstwentyFifteen48x60WLUntitled (Formations, 2015), 48 x 60 inches, oil on canvas, 2015

The other paintings in this exhibit are below. All the work is for sale; give a shout if you are interested in purchasing any. And if you are in the area, drop in to Art Haus at Milepost5 and check out the art. And/or drop in to my studio, which is just up the street from Art Haus.

A couple of the pieces are textiles that date back as far as 2007. They too were hanging in the studio, and James wanted them for the exhibit.


Miocene, 92 x 82 inches, hand-dyed and painted fabrics, machine stitched, 2007

01The Rising65x52WL

The Rising, 65 x 55 inches, hand-dyed and painted silk, machine stitched, 2007.


Golden Canyon, 52 x 48 Inches, oil on canvas, 2009


Untitled (2014 Number One), 30 x 40 inches, oil on canvas, 2014


Untitled (2014 Number Two), 30 x 40 inches, oil on canvas, 2014


Winter Working, 30 x 40 Inches, oil on canvas, 2015

The title of this exhibit is “Winter Workings”.¬† My artist statement is below, just in case you were wondering:


Studio Paintings by June O. Underwood

I am enamored of space.  Spaces, actually.  All kinds of spaces.  In my twenties I was a wannabee caver, and I found crawling through small caverns in rock to be exciting.  Having grown older and perhaps wiser, I find large spaces, like Nevada’s basin and range country, exhilarating. Montana’s Big Sky delights me. I love eastern Oregon’s air and geologies, wrapped in light.

Space also means light to me, all kinds of light.  One of my earliest memories is of sitting at the supper table in what must have been early fall, with a golden flood of light in the room, and outside, the gold pouring over a stubbled corn field, glinting off the river beyond.  While scientists can measure some kinds of space without light, we ordinary viewers need light to see space.

And where there‚Äôs light, there‚Äôs color ‚Äď which for the painter means paint.¬† And canvas.¬† And brushes, and other instruments (knives and spatulas and rags) to make color make light make space.

So I begin my work with right-sized canvas.  And with imagination and time. In the winter, I don’t have geologically interesting rock structures or neighborhood houses and wonky vehicles or even trails through the trees to provoke my space lust.  So I go with imagination and abstraction.  I plunk the paint onto the canvas, smear it, push it around, stare at it and study it, until its destination, its metaphor or story or sensuality becomes clear.

Not that anyone else has to find space in my abstract or semi-abstract work. Your imagination can work on the color and light and canvas, and you can allow it to roam freely.¬† But if you want to know what, in general, I was thinking of, think ‚Äúspace.‚ÄĚ

Of course, I always play with other elements of painting ‚Äď texture, color, line, rhythm, shape, design. And these, taken together, are what lead me to metaphor and/or story. ¬†Space, light, time. Metaphor, story.¬† Paint, canvas, brushes.¬† Imagination, studying, immersions ‚Äď all these go into my winter workings.

A bit of biography:

I‚Äôm a 74 year old female, and I have moved across the United States from rural Pennsylvania, stopping in Virginia, Wyoming, Long Island, and Kansas before my husband, daughter, and I landed in Portland, Oregon, in 1989. I taught English and women‚Äôs studies at Emporia (Kansas) State University until 1985, had my first visual art exhibition in Oregon City in 1995, and traded textile art for painting in 2006. ¬†We now live in Montavilla in Portland, about 3 miles from my daughter; we have a grandson who will graduate from Reed College in 2016; and we are in the last developmental stages of our lives. ¬†‚ÄúLast‚ÄĚ goes on a long time these days, so I think I have time to explore neighborhoods and landscapes in the summer and to bring forth a lot of Big Paintings in my winter working.

And a happy new year to all of you; may your new year bring forth a lot of big paintings, or the equivalent.

jou (june, aka June O. Underwood, when she’s in trouble)




Paintings, 2014

2015-07-27 22.29.072014 was not a good year for making art. We moved into a new house, with a studio space. A very large studio space, a separate building on the property. We packed (and looked for housing and sold our house) from January to July. We moved July 3 and spent July through November fixing the “new” house. And unpacking. And putting things away. And then rearranging the things that we had put away.

My new space, while huge and functional, was not finished — raw flooring (particle board), raw walls (sheet rock) raw ceiling (insulation). The bathroom, while a great upgrade on my old studio which had no such facility, had no molding around the door. The muck-out sink was a mess from the woodworker who used the place before I got there. The lights were flickering and/or not functioning. In short, from November through February, I worked on the studio.

StudioFeb22015EastEast side of studio, as of February 2.

StudioFeb22015westWest side of the studio as of February 2. Note that this is a 2 dimensional view: the actual imaged space is about 35 feet long. The “east side” (with its floor to be painted) is 15 more feet. A big space.

So, it’s been a long year. However, sandwiched in and around this year of moving and fixing and painting and moving some more, I managed to do a tiny bit of work. Some of it was on canvases with other paintings. The one that was most finished when I started into it in 2014 became an abstract that we put up in our dining room:

AbstractOne2014WLAbstract One 2014, 30 x 40″, oil on canvas, 2014

This was a painting that I had already begun using the color shaper (a kind of spatula) on, and I so enjoyed the ribbon-like marks it made that I’m continuing to find ways to play with that tool. Although my memory is a bit vague, I think this painting originated in the formations around Jerome, Arizona.

The next definitely originated in Jerome imagery, although it was far less developed when I began working on it this fall.

AbstractTwo2014WLAbstract Two 2014, 30 x 40″, oil on canvas, 2014

This oil painting provided a satisfying accompaniment to the first one; it hangs in our new living room. It started as a play on the stairs of Jerome Arizona, which mimic the land formations of that region, including the Mogollon Rim which can be seen across the Verde Valley below Jerome. But it quickly morphed taking on new shapes and movements.

It was about this painting that one of the workmen, walking through the living room, remarked , “Busy, ain’t it.”

I was sitting at the table, and I’m not sure he knew I was there.

“So am I,” I said, just a bit tartly. Jer hastened to add, “She painted it.”

The conversation went on from there.

In late fall, I took a workshop, kind of a masters play time, with Bill Park, a Portland painter. For a number of reasons, I decided to work in acrylics. After doing studies with the medium for a day or two, I brought in a large rolled blank canvas and began on the next painting. It is not quite finished, and in fact, it may not be in its original orientation when I finish with it:

TheGreenGreenHillsOfHome2014WLThe Green Green Hills of Home, about 60 x 60 inches, acrylic on canvas, 2014

My color shaper doesn’t work the same with acrylic paint, but acrylic has other advantages, the principle one being that it’s easier to transport a dry canvas of that size. This one began with a large figure and went on from there. There is one place that I intend to work on further, but I’m not saying where. And I’m thinking it may end up oriented like this:

TheGreenGreenHillsOfHome2014RotateRtWLThe Green Green HIlls of Home, rotated right

Finally, on the easel at this moment, sunk into that pile of furnishings moved so the second half of the floor can be painted, is one more abstract that I’m hoping to get to — soon.

AbstractThree2014-15WLAbstract Three 2015 (in progress), 30 x 40 inches, oil on canvas, 2015

I’m thinking of adding a couple of “bars” of cadmium red, horizontally, in places across the canvas (cadmium red is the red-toward-yellow basic paint, as opposed to alizarin red, which is the red-toward-blue). Until I try that, I’m not sure where this canvas is going. Nor when, for that matter.

But the studio is slowly being civilized, with painted sheet rock and painted floor, and a tamed bathroom, with molding on its door frames. The lights are all functioning and almost perfect. The new storm door can be kept open all day, and even in January, opening the big “garage” doors in the middle of the day was possible. This is a space in which even I can’t feel closed-in. If one is a busy person, one needs lots of space to roam.


The Plank Paintings: Playa, September 2013 — January 2014

Plank2The “Plank Paintings”, more formally known as Summer Lake from Winter Ridge, has long been finished. I wrote about it earlier, under the rubric of The Project from Hell.

I finished the last coats a bit more than a year ago, and I recorded much of the process along the way. Then life intervened and I never got the panels photographed. Finally, however, I finally got the finished paintings lined up for photography is my new studio.

The panorama is 1 foot high by 16 feet long, oil on cedar planks, painted in 2013, 1014. More specifically, the substrate consists of eight 12 x 24 inch planks, harvested, with the help of the talented Rachel Streeter, from old building that sat on the land where the Playa Foundation was built. Playa, the Foundation, is located on Summer Lake, near Paisley, Oregon, in the far southeastern quarter of the state.

AcrossThePlayaFromRidgeWLA “playa”, as a geologic feature, is a lake which has no outlet to the ocean. The most famous one in the U.S. is perhaps Death Valley. The Amargosa, across a mountain range from Death Valley, where I painted in 2009, is a playa. Summer Lake sits at the northern edge of basin and range country, and forms its own playa, with Winter Ridge rearing above it.

The paintings were something of a challenge, beginning with raw wood that needed to be sanded and primed with an oil medium.

PlanksRawWlThen the planks were lined up on the wall, with various versions of the Summer Lake Playa, photographed panoramically, above and below:

PlanksAndPhotosRawWLOnce the horizon was established on the paintings, according to my physical sense of that sky and earth, I could start painting. Each painting was lined up with the previous one (although I started from the center, of course).

planksProcess2WLThe red line on the plank above was my original idea of the horizon. It got adjusted as I painted.

My desire was to capture something of the sweep of the playa as seen from above, on Winter Ridge, during a bright September day.

Here’s a photo of the finished panorama:

PlayaPlankPanoFullWLSummer Lake from Winter Ridge from the left, 1 foot by 16 feet, oil on cedar planks, 2013/2014.


Summer Lake from Winter Ridge, the Panorama, 1 foot by 16 feet, oil on cedar plank, 2013/2014

Below are photos of the individual planks:

#1PlayaPlankPanoWLPlank 1, Summer Lake to the south.

#2PlayaPlankPanoWLPlank 2, Summer lake to the southeast.

#3PlayaPlankWLPlank 3, Summer Lake to the southeast

#4PlayaPlankPanoWLPlank 4, Summer Lake to the east.

#5PlayaPlankPanoWLPlank 5, Summer Lake to the east.

#6PlayaPlankPanoWLPlank 6, Summer Lake to the northwest.

#7PlayaPlankPanoWLPlank 7, Summer Lake to the northwest

#8PlayaPlankPanoWLPlank 8, Summer Lake to the northwest.  To state the obvious, I was painting from the west side of Summer Lake, on the eastfacing side of Winter Ridge itself.

Below are the two center panels, 4 & 5, plus bits of the ones beside them:

PlayaPano4,5PlusWLThese panels were the culminating work from a short residency at the Playa Foundation, during the fall of 2013. The planks were courtesy of the Foundation, and it was actually Rachel, musician, tile setter, and finder of wood and energy, who provided the ambition and tools to move me along on this rather ambitious project. I used the grain of the raw wood to guide the earth images, allowing any imperfections in the boards to remain. The challenge of finding the nuances within the playa, sand and sky, was almost equal to the challenge of preparing the wood. And of course, I feel in the panorama a kinship with that glorious land of southern Oregon, a place of blazing beauty and tough conditions.

Written in January 2015, from NE 86th Ave,